The Once a Year Sandwich

Photo by Jouwen Wang on Unsplash

Are you hungry? Lunch is a long way off. How about a sandwich? That will take the edge off your hunger.

Te invito. My treat.

We’ll take a little walk to the central part of Barranco, my home town, a suburb of Lima. It is only about 10 minutes away. We will go across a small park and continue along tree- lined streets. Then, let’s turn left at the Comisaria (police station), go past the big bank, and cross the main street. On the corner is our destination.

Forget about ambience, fancy decorations or elegant waiters. The place I am taking you is a hole in the wall. A place frequented mostly by guys; they are the kind of guys you might find populating the waterfront or a construction site. It is dark, dingy and rude, sort of cave-like. Crowding into small, simple tables, these are guys who talk about business, politics and sports— just like men everywhere.

The Chinese-Peruvian proprietor calmly stands at a hot table slicing thick chunks of roast pork, or ham, oblivious to the loud chatter around him. The waiter is rough, joking with the customers and not all that clean. Once in a while someone asks for a fruit juice. Then the whirr of the blender combines with the chatter of the crowd.

Women are here, too. Usually they are with a male companion. This place definitely has a strong masculine flavor. Oddly enough, for a reason unknown to me, the place is called Restaurante Alicia.

These guys, the patrons, didn’t come for the atmosphere; they came for the sandwiches. Me, too. My favorite is the chicharron sandwich with a round crunchy bun, hefty enough to require the use of two hands, a good sized mouth and an ambitious appetite.

Heaped into the bread are slices of salted pork cooked crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Also nestled inside are slices of fried camote, sweet potato. I never had sweet potato in a sandwich before coming to Peru, but now I really like it. This combination gives the eater a salty sweet taste. Then, marinated onions are added to suit individual taste. For me, I love to pile on the onions. Yum.

As I said before, you need an ambitious appetite for all this. My wife and I usually share one sandwich. However, the real guys in this place are able to take one on without blinking an eye. They are undaunted by the challenge. For variety you could also choose ham of several types. One is called country ham (jamon del pais) and is a quite acceptable substitute for the chicharon. I suspect that if some enterprising Peruvian would start putting together sandwiches like this in the U.S., they would go over well.

To wash all this down, we can select coffee, a chicha morada, made from purple corn, refreshing, sweet, with the tang of limes, or an Inca cola, yellow, sparkling, with a fruity flavor, a favorite here in Peru.
Replete, content after chatting for awhile, we get the bill. For one sandwich and two drinks I will pay eleven soles (U.S. 4.00)

Just outside the little restaurant is a news stand. We stop and look at the headlines just as a crowd of the locals do all the time. Occasionally someone buys a paper to take with him inside the restaurant.
Then we hike up the main street, through the park and back to my house. We need to rest until lunch time

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