My journey began in Iquitos, Peru on a gloomy warm afternoon. The smell of diesel fuel filled the crowded streets of this small city while I rode on a moto-taxi. Many food carts lined the streets selling a variety of treats such as, popcorn, nuts, fruits and their juices, even clothes and accessories. I was on a strict diet which prevented me of completely indulging in the local cuisine, but it did not stop me from hunting out good food. My second day in this foreign land was an early one. I woke around 6 to get to the Belen Market. Belen is an “open aired” market that sells numerous items from food to household goods to tobacco and many medicinal herbs, plants, and perfumes. One of the alleys in particular that caught my eye, and nose, was the meat aisle. Fresh raw meat filled the aisle as vulture’s prowled through the garbage ridding the trash bags from all the unsold meat. I quickly turned down the fruit lane where many unfamiliar fruits awaited my arrival. Some familiar fruits were there too, mango, papaya, passion fruits, coconuts, and bananas. The unfamiliar were the variety of the familiar, such as, large yellow passions fruits, green, orange, black and yellow bananas, small and large, and the mango varieties. All these fruits were delicious and all the food from the handful of restaurants I visited was amazing. My meals often consisted of veggies, rice, and fruits. I also was able to find some amazing garlic bread that happened to fit with my strict diet. I spent a lot of money eating that garlic bread only to find out it wasn’t as much money as I thought. I also tried a fruit called Aguaje that had a red beaded like shell that incased a yellow cheddar cheese like fruit and a large seed. Although I can’t say I enjoyed it since I am not a cheddar fan, but it sure would be a great substitute for someone who loves cheese.
The trip continued. After leaving Peru and arriving home it was time to get ready for my next destination, Jamaica. Jamaica has always been a dream destination for me. I love the turquoise blue waters and the variety of food they offer. The plane landed in Montego Bay and we were quickly collected and swept off to Belmont, a small town where everyone knows one another. I stayed at a small cottage called “Nature Roots Cottage” owned by a lovely Rasta man named Brian or “The Bushman” and his family. They were amazing hosts and always made sure we had everything we needed. The friends we met were also very helpful. We had one man named “Stumpy” who came every morning with fresh fruit picked from his farm that morning. Now the fruits in Jamaica are far beyond what I had anticipated. He brought us large bags filled with star apples, Jamaican apples, coconuts, bananas, mangoes, sour sop, jack-fruit, a cherimoya type fruit which they called sweet sop, ackee, and best of all bread fruit. We also had the opportunity to have fresh lobster brought to us caught just that morning. Our lovely host prepared amazing meals which included festival, a fried corn bread like treat with pumpkin mixed in the dough. We had run down which is similar to a stew, but with more of a runny consistency. Our favorite meal of the whole trip was the bread fruit, lobster and festival dish. Ackee was also a most requested dish. Once cooked, Ackee is similar to scrambled eggs. We had this for breakfast several times with festival and veggies. This trip also included visits to Negril, and Montego. It was far more difficult to find local Jamaican fruits in the tourist area. It’s important to make local friends that can help you find what you need. We just so happened to have a lady offer to braid our hair and while getting our braids done, we asked her where we can get ital food. Ital is short for vital. Many of the traditional Rastafarians eat ital food which is pure and clean from the earth mainly vegan with the exception of the occasional fish dish if they choose. In Montego it is difficult to find this food, but she knew a woman who was happy to cook for us and made us exactly what we wanted. We found that if you want the real feel of Jamaica living, there is no place better to start in than Belmont. I highly recommend starting and ending your trip here.
On our return home from Jamaica we had a 6 hour layover in Florida. Now Florida is part of the U.S. and it’s easier to find healthy food. I was still skeptical since I don’t know the area. We found an amazing organic vegan restaurant that had many options. Our order as usual was a large one consisting of avocado toast, a squash dip with veggies, bbq burger, lentil bowl, shakes, and desserts! It’s always helpful to try and do your research before heading anywhere you’re unfamiliar with, but sometimes you get lucky.
Although my traveling will continue, I feel a piece of my heart was left both in Peru and Jamaica. I had two life changing experiences both in their own ways. I will never forget these places and plan on returning. My hopes are for many other people to see these places and know that no matter where you go there is always something fresh to eat. You might have to step out of your comfort zone or step outside of your hotel to find it, but in the end and you will find yourself leaving a part of you in a foreign land, of course, in exchange for some great fresh food! Enjoy!