Vegano Latino

Vegan Ceviche at Green Point in Cusco

Vegan Ceviche at Green Point in Cusco

In previous blog posts, I shared my motivation for turning vegan, and what the past year has been like for me as a new vegan. Now, I reflect on what it means to be Latino and vegan. Could I give up the comfort food of my youth, or would I loose part of my identity? I also wondered what it would be like to travel in Peru as a vegan.

Food is an integral part of Latino culture, and all over the Americas, North, Central, South, and Ibero, we celebrate it. It’s part of our history and heritage, and each family has its favorite dishes. We all gather in the kitchen, waiting for our mamá, tía, or abuela to finish cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner for the family.

Every time I visit Peru, it seems that food is all we talk about. During breakfast we talk about what to have for lunch, the main meal of the day. Then, during lunch we talk about where to get our afternoon coffee. Afterwards, we talk about where to go for dinner. Food is part of our identity, and a common language we all share.

So when I told my family in Peru I was turning vegan, it was challenging for them to understand. No more meat? What about your favorite dish? You can’t have that anymore? Fish is OK right? Family gatherings weren’t the same, I looked at all the family style dishes on the dinner table, and not one was an option for me.

But slowly, I noticed a change. One day, my parents said to me, “Let’s go our for lunch, but let’s choose a place that has vegan options for you.” That day we went to Amaz, a restaurant in Lima that prepares dishes from the Amazon jungle. It was a wonderful surprise and real joy to see several plant-based dishes on their menu.

On our recent trip to Peru, my girlfriend and I discovered more restaurants serving vegan food: Green Point and Qura in Cusco, MIL in Moray, and Armonica in Lima. I was also reminded that Picarones, sweet potato deep-fried donuts are plant-based. Seeing Peru with new eyes, I realized that it was possible to be Latino and vegan.

I am also realizing that as a chef, I am on a new journey, learning that I can preserve my culture and still be vegan. I think about my ancestors, the Inca, and how they honored Pachamama, Mother Earth, how they farmed potatoes, corn, and quinoa, all plants. Maybe, as a vegan, I am not only returning to my roots, I am also finding home.