“Well, you have to kill and eat it, before it kills and eats you..” our taxi driver and guide in Iquitos, Peru joked while driving us around the city in his mototaxi and discussing eating crocodile meat.
Soon we would discover that this was not just a joke.
After having spent some time in the Colombian Amazon, we now arrived in the Peruvian part of the Amazon. To a certain extent a stark contrast.
For centuries the people of the Amazon have lived with and of the nature surrounding them just trying to survive using plants and animals of the rainforest as their primary food sources. Having killed a crocodile was probably reason for a feast, as it provided them with an unusual meaty meal and eliminated a natural enemy.
These days ideas about how to treat animals have generally – and luckily – changed, also in the Amazon. People respect animal life more than before and there is definitely more awareness that many animals should just be left in their natural habitat and not as pets, for example.
Yet, while travelling through the Colombian and the Peruvian part of the Amazon, we certainly observed a difference between these two countries, most likely explained by the poverty level and all issues that go along with that.
Whereas it seems that Amazonian people in Colombia are more aware of the importance to preserve their natural surroundings, on the Peruvian side the picture is more grim.
When passing the border it is immediately clear: this part of Peru is poor, really poor. Life is different here. Numerous children dwell the streets begging or trying to sell you something, buildings are basic if not almost falling apart and streets are far from clean and are badly maintained, just to give an idea.
And suddenly it falls at its place, somehow it makes sense. If you are born here, have lived here all your life surrounded by nature, if your ancestors have been killing the wildlife to survive and you starve of hunger, doesn’t it make more sense to catch the available wildlife to feed yourself and your family? And how to create more awareness if children do not even go to school?
Walking around Iquitos market and visiting other parts of town we could see the ‘exotic’ food ourselves. Alligator nuggets on the menu is not very unusual here. Same for alligators’ heads on the grill. And of course plenty of exotic – for us unknown – fruits, that make excellent fruit juices.
But what to think of these living worms called suri? As big as your thumb, they will happily crawl around in a bowl until they will be put on the grill to be prepared for you. As a vegetarian I passed on this ‘exotic’ experience, but I have been told that as soon as you get used to the soft structure of the suri, the taste is actually pretty ok.
Would you try?
The above picture of the grilled suri has also been published on the Huffington Post for the article A Halloween Buffet: A Scary Food Tour Around The World, written by the Gypsynesters.