Lunch is generally the most important meal of the day. People take long lunch breaks, schools and offices take a break and many try to eat at home with their families. Lunch usually begins with a big plate of soup with a big piece of meat in and garnished with parsley, lots of LLajua and bread at the side, followed by a main course. Most of the dishes have 4 components:
Meat: cow, lamb, llama, pork, chicken, rabbit, fish
Potatoes: white , purple , red , camotes , tunta, chuño, oca
Cereals: Rice, quinoa, fideo, trigo
Vegetables: mixed salad, tomatoes , cucumbers, beans, habas, etc
Some fresh fruit or sweet as dessert, special and elaborated desserts are reserved for the weekend, after meals it is usual to drink coca tea or trimate as a digestive.
Mom used to have a cook Mrs. Alicia de Bartha (R.I.P) this lady used to prepared the best lunches I ever had , her sopa de mani was incredible and papas a la wancaina were her forte , she introduced us to a variety of popular and native dishes and taught me that lunch wasn’t only stake , potatoes, rice, fideos and vegetables . Mrs. Candy was another cook I remember and she loved to spoil me bringing fresh rabbit stew to my bed when I was sick and her “get well soups” ( those things were strong and the ingredients are rated) gave me the energy to leave bed.
When I went to College in 1992 and moved to Cochabamba, I was introduced to the best food ever!.... “La comida Cochabambina” or food cooked in Cochabamba, the taste of the Cochala is incomparable and you can find a different restaurant with a special menu for every hour of the day, the little cities surrounding the main town have a magnificent regional menu. I think that people live to eat in Cochabamba instead of eat to live. Amazingly, after all the food I ate in my school years I kept the same clothing size. Maybe because the variety of food because going to the gym did not exist on my vocabulary and today is a daily habit. Bolivians have a balanced diet rich in variety and the freshness of the products couldn't get better. Canned food , frozen food, fast food, colorings, flavorings and preservatives do not exist in our diets and these are just foreign words for us!
Potatoes are important in Bolivian cooking. Over 200 kinds of potatoes grown in Bolivia, dried potatoes called chuños and tunta last for months. Papas negras, papa imilla , papa huayca , oca , papaliza , camote, yuca, are between the local’s favorite corn and beans are also staples. People enjoy eating choclo con queso o quesillo, fried plantains , and rice are popular side dishes. Quinoa is often eaten with meals or added to soups. Bolivians enjoy a wide variety of fruits, including papayas, prickly pears, apples, bananas, strawberries, maracuja, and chirimoya (custard apples).
Popular Bolivian dishes include escabeche de pollo , sajta de pollo and chicharron, people who live near a lake or river may eat trout, dorado, surubí and pejerrey. In the south, where people raise beef cattle, a common dish is ají de lengua .Every city has a speciality, from Tarija with love: saice; Cochabamba: chicharron, soltero, pique, fricase; Oruro: rostro asado, colitas, costillar, brazuelo, La Paz : fricase paceño, plato paceño ,Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando : Locro, majadito, majao cruceño, cabañitas; Sucre: Chorizos, Menudito; Potosí: ají de pataskha, sopa de maní, chambergos, thimpu…. wow! The list keeps growing and I’m getting hungry! San Francisco here I go... ready to find something good for my stomach's food cravings not before a 45 minutes visit to the Hotel's gym.