The Cheese Shop

The Cheese Shop

I have now arrived in Huarocondo, a small village 37 km northwest of Cusco. It is really out of the way and few tourist come here. But last year when I was here, I discovered a wonderful little bed and breakfast that goes by the name of GringoWasi, owned by Lyle and Lily Walker. I decided to return here this year for a week or two before moving on over to the Sacred Valley.

Last week, Lyle and Lily invited me to accompany them to buy fresh cheese and yogurt. Peru has very little grazing land and therefore fresh milk is not very common. However, in a valley west of Cusco, the grass is lush and green and there are many, many smallholders of dairy cows—just like we used to have in the US. Gloria, the local dairy, drives a truck around daily to pick up cans of milk to transport to the dairy for processing into yogurt and canned milk. BUT, as you drive through the area, you see signs for roadside stands selling cheese and yogurt. One of those was our destination on Thursday.

The main indication that there was a roadside stand was this sign tied to a tree by the road. 

Once we parked, the little stand became visible.

Who recognizes this script?

The man inside offered us samples of his cheeses—one was a smoked variety. They also combine oregano in one of the cheeses, and Muña in another. Muña is a herb in the mint family and is used here by the Quechua people often in a herbal tea. It does have a very minty flavor. When I was visiting Isla Amantani in Lake Titicaca, it was the only tea available. You can learn more about the herb and its properties here.

The cheese was amazingly delicious—like no other cheese I had tasted. He only had a little bit of the muña cheese—just enough to offer samples, but he said that he would have more next Tuesday, so we asked if he would reserve some rounds for us.

He had two kinds of freshly-made yogurt: strawberry and plain. Plain yogurt is very hard to find in Peru. Almost all the tiendas have yogurt (what we would probably call kefir—since it is fairly liquid and drinkable), but never any plain/unsweetened (what they call “natural”). Even the supermarkets have 30 or 40 flavors of yogurt, but they may have only one or two bottles of “natural,” if you are lucky. Since I prefer plain yogurt, that is what I asked for. Imagine my surprise when he asked if I wanted it sweetened or unsweetened. What a great discovery!

I learned in my last trip to Peru that yogurt is a great remedy for ongoing digestive complaints. Last year, I had some kind of stomach-illness (from food or virus—who knows?) that only lasted about 12 hours, but for two weeks afterwards, my digestive system was not quite right. Once I discovered that drinking yogurt everyday put me to rights, I started using it as a preventative measure for keeping myself healthy.

Fresh plain yogurt and muña cheese

So I came home with one round of hard cheese and a liter of fresh home-made yogurt. 

Today (Tuesday)  I have eaten more than half the cheese almost all the yogurt; so I was glad that Lyle and Lily volunteered to go over and pick up more cheese and yogurt for me on their way to Cusco. 

For those of you who are interested in what it costs to eat fresh and healthy food here, the liter of yogurt was S/6 (about $2.00) and the cheese was S/10 (about $3.25).


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