The Juice Ladies of San Camillo
One of the highlights of the San Camillo market in Arequipa, is the long line of women (about 50 stalls!) selling just about any kind of smoothie or juice you can imagine. Along with the Seccion Fruitas (Fruit Section), it is the most colorful part of the market. The women stand in elevated stalls and encourage you come over, sit down and order something. The problem is figuring out what you want. When I go there, it is almost impossible for me to decide.
I have picked out my favorite juice lady, however. When I am shopping here (or anywhere!) I gravitate towards people who are friendly and have a nice smile. Don’t we all? I sometimes cannot figure out what clerks and storekeepers (worldwide—not just in Peru) are thinking when they have sullen expressions and act like they could do their jobs better if they did not have so many customers. So, as I walked down the row of stalls, when Carmen (Stall # 17) waved me over with her wide smile, I could not resist.
The first time, I was really thirsty and hot, so I just got some fresh-squeeze orange juice. It was a bit tart but really hit the spot. The only problem was that there was so much of it! A tall glass—about a pint. I think she juiced 6 or 7 oranges. The juices are served in real glasses and you sit on the little stools and drink. As you near the bottom of the glass, Carmen holds up her blender to pour the REST of the juice in! I think I got my Vitamin C fix for the week! Eventually I will learn to take my bottle to bring half of the smoothie home with me. It is a lot to drink at once.
Each juice lady has her regular customers. Some of Carmen’s walked up while I was drinking and she did not even have to ask them what they wanted. Many people stop by with newspapers in hand and read the day’s news while sipping.
Recently, I had a recommendation to try the lucuma con leche combination. It is a very rich combination of about 1 cup’s worth of the lucuma fruit with evaporated milk topping the blender. A lucuma is about the size of a large tomato and green on the outside and orange (like pumpkin) on the inside. The inside has the consistency of the yolk of a hard-boiled egg and it has a pit like an avocado, but it has a maple-y flavor—kind of like a pumpkin pie, but not quite as sweet. Combined with milk, it made a drink that was so rich and yummy—more like a dessert. The only problem was that there was SO much of it and I drank the WHOLE thing. Guess who was not hungry for dinner?
“Why,” you ask, “is it so hard to decide?” Well, take a look at the menu signs. What would you choose?
It is not hard for me to eliminate the ones that include cerveza like Ponche de Cerveza. (Beer, milk, egg, honey, maca, and algarrobina.) It sounds like some kind of hangover remedy to me. Maca is a root vegetable in the radish family, sometimes called Peruvian ginseng, that is native to the high Andes. It is eaten for its vitamins B, C, and E; and for health benefits such as increasing stamina, curing acne, and alleviating mood swings. Oh, it is also an aphrodisiac and relieves erotic dysfunction—of course! Algarrobina is sweet syrup made from the black carob tree and is high in vitamins and minerals. It is often used in smoothies and cocktails. Again, it is also known for its ability to alleviate erotic dysfunction. Are we seeing a pattern here?
When I leave here next week, I will miss Carmen and the activity at the juice stalls. Hopefully I will find others in the Sacred Valley.