Wait, those aren’t tater tots!Photo: Ellen Moynihan
We thought we’d have to trek out to Park Slope’s Salinas to get a taste of guinea pig, a.k.a. cuy, the rodent that according to one of our favorite cookbooks Unmentionable Cuisine, accounts for 50 percent of the protein eaten in Peru. Since the restaurant usually sells out of the delicacy by the unholy time we rise and shine on weekends, we were interested — and okay, a little freaked out — to find out that Compare Foods in Bushwick sells the critters frozen. If the slaughtering instructions (trust us, you don’t want to know) and the recipe for Creole-style guinea pig in Unmentionable Cuisine don’t convince you they’re coveted by diners, allow us to share an unforgettable story of guinea-pig smuggling.
My grandmother likes to send cuys back to her kids as gifts from her ranch in Ecuador. She has a giant dirt pit in which they burrow and breed. She catches, kills and cooks them. They take about two days to prepare and cook. One time, on my way back from Quito, I put all nine cuys in a duffle bag along with the smelliest sneakers from my trip to cover up the garlicky smell. Upon arriving to Newark airport I instructed my pigtailed twelve-year-old sister to carry the bag through customs. We had the spirits of nine cuys watching over our heads that day. Some people like my uncle have not been so fortunate and have been accused of eating rat upon discovery at customs.