I had the complete honour of being part of the team helping to look after the animals at the Animal Defenders International Operation Spirit of Freedom compound in Peru. The website says how “ADI is currently caring for 30 lions, over a dozen monkeys, and other animals, all who have suffered terribly at the hands of humans. But with your help, we are working to get them to a safe and wonderful new life”. You can make a real difference to the lives of these animals by donating ($ or £) to this fantastic rescue operation!
Some small cats who I shared my living space with 🙂
It was a awesome opportunity, not only to meet some incredible animals and impressively dedicated people, but also to eat vegan in a country where vegan ice cream parlours do not exist! To be fair, Lima city does have a couple of veggie restaurants, but Lima is a big place so I didn’t have a chance to get to them. However, fear not! I would never deprive myself of food!
Go prepared, or go hungry!
My starting point with any trip, even if I’m going for a day trip near home, is to be prepared, and I certainly was. My food bundle for a month involved 38 nakd and trek bars, packets of biscuits, two packs of vac-packed chinese five spiced tofu, some dried sausage mix, dried soya mince, two tubes of pate, a pack of vegan cheese slices, a tub of vegan cream cheese and a tub of margarine. Shamefully, this made up the majority of my overweight luggage. Ooops! Twas worth it.
Food using my supplies! Pate, cheese and sausage mix.
My Bolivian housemates (one veggie, one vegan) were also extremely grateful to try some new foods, which they tell me are in short supply in Bolivia and Latin America in general. It made me very happy to see how much they enjoyed new treats! They paid me back by making the most flavoursome meals with perfectly cooked rice, potatoes and quinoa, something I ate little of before. That has now changed!
Delicious quinoa, potato, noodle and veg dishes prepared by my Bolivian housemates
Fruit and veg
One thing that’s plentiful in Peru is fruit and veg. I had the chance to visit a huge local market where the colour and variety of veg blew my mind. It was so cheap for a girl used to London prices! And the avocado was out of this world!
I ate a lot more fruit than I ever do at home. I the find hard, watery and tasteless fruit from supermarkets in the UK uninspiring, but the colour and ripeness of mangoes, mini bananas, passion fruit and other exotic fruits was very exciting! I’ll definitely be braver now to try some new fruits that I have seen at my local market in London, where there is a small exotic variety to cater for the multicultural population.
Beautiful fruit and vegetables!
Chia seeds, which are becoming popular now in the UK, making them available but expensive, were only around £1 for a small bag! I was pretty devastated when I got home and realised I’d left the bag I bought in Peru. A bag about half as big would cost me £7 now! NOOOOOOOO!
Yes, they deserve their own sub-heading. It set my heart skipping with joy that, in Peru, potatoes of all different varieties abound! “Papas” were a regular part of my diet and I felt no shame about the carb overload as I was using a hell of a lot of energy. The local shop, owned by a sweet couple, made us special vegetarian “Papas rellenas” which is mashed potato balls stuffed with peppery vegetables, deep fried. They were an utter delight, especially for the bargain price of 25p (around 50c)each. It was also possible to get a monster portion of chips (papas fritas) for the equivalent of around £1.25. I think my fellow volunteers were wowed with my chip destroying skills. I do like to impress!
Papas rellenas and the lovely shop owners who made them especially for us.
My mad chip eating skills
This simple and easy to cook staple was available in large amounts in the supermarkets which allowed a lovely variety of dishes. I even managed to find some soya mince and knock up a spaghetti bolognese! It was perfect to be able to throw on a pot of pasta at the end of a long, hard day of work and still be able to have a nutritious and filling meal.
The only bummer was that, as a weak foreigner, it’s not to safe to eat salad, or anything that can’t be peeled or cooked to within an inch of it’s life. Getting creative solved this little problem in a jiffy! I’ve never peeled a tomato before this trip, but I’m damn good at it now! I could enjoy refreshing tomato, red onion and (peeled) cucumber salad. I threw in some black beans and green lentils for protein too. The olive oil and vinegar was delicious so was glugged on in large amounts.
The only thing I really had to do without was soya milk which all had lactose in. Whilst researching this I found a webpage from a Peruvian vegan group who addressed this problem. Hopefully for our fellow compassionate souls in Peru, soya milk and but milks free from animal products will hit the shelves some time in the future! My temporary solution, as an avid cereal eater, was to have fiber or cereal mixed with fruit, chia seeds and fruit juice. This is a good trick anytime you get caught out with no animal free milk. Sweet but yummy!
So there you have it. Even in seemingly difficult circumstances it is possible to stick to your guns and avoid eating animal products. Its really not a choice for my brain anyhow – I know it’s not right for me to take anything from animals. And when you are able to eat your body weight in potatoes everyday, who needs anything else?!
I had to say goodbye to this beautiful little face before making my way home!