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Bolivia Cuisine

The typical diet is abundant in carbohydrates but deficient in other food categories. In the highlands, the primary staple is the potato (dozens of varieties of this Andean domesticate are grown), followed by other Andean and European-introduced tubers and grains (eg, oca, quinua, barley, and, increasingly in the Oriente, rice), maize, and legumes, especially the broad bean. Freeze-dried potatoes (chuño) and air-dried jerky (ch'arki) from cattle or Andean camelids (llama, alpaca, and vicuña) are common, although beef forms an insignificant part of the daily diet. Maize beer (chicha) is a traditional and ritually important beverage in the highlands. In the Oriente, rice, cassava, peanuts, bananas, legumes and maize constitute the cornerstone of the daily diet, supplemented by fish, poultry and beef. Favourite national delicacies include guinea pig (also consumed during important ceremonial occasions) and deep-fried pork (chicharrón). Meals are served with hot pepper sauces. There are few food taboos and almost all animal parts are eaten, although reptiles are not consumed. Most cultural restrictions centre on food preparation, such as avoiding uncooked, unprocessed foods.

In cities and towns, the early-morning meal usually consists of coffee, tea, or a hot maize beverage (api), sometimes served with bread. In marketplaces, hot meals and stews are also consumed. In the countryside, breakfast sometimes consists of toasted ground cereals with cheese and tea, followed by a thick soup (lawa) at nine or ten. The major meal is lunch (almuerzo), which in upper-class urban households and restaurants typically is a four-course meal. A much lighter meal is eaten at around seven in the evening. Peasants and lower-income urban dwellers have a lunch of boiled potatoes, homemade cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and hot sauce (lawa) or a thick stew with rice or potatoes.

The most elaborate and hearty meals, with abundant fresh vegetables and beef, chicken, or pork, are eaten at ceremonial occasions, such as the life cycle events of baptism, marriage, and death. Public displays of generosity and reciprocity, offering abundant food and drink not often available at other times of the year (eg, bottled beer, cane alcohol called trago, and beef), are an important cultural imperative. On All Souls Day, meals are prepared for the recently deceased and those who are ill. Many important meals mimic those of upper-class restaurants in the major cities, including dishes such as ají de pollo (chicken smothered in hot chili sauce and served with rice and/or potatoes).





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