The basis of a good ceviche is the use of the best fish – most of the time the freshest – and its transformation through processes of proven efficiency. Let’s extrapolate: the basis of the kitchen is the good use of the best input and its transformation by expert hands. If these definitions are correct, two crises poke their noses at the already battered Peruvian gastronomic scene.
The first is that of the product, and to exemplify it, it is advisable to follow the line of the flag plate. An average restaurant ceviche in Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco is made with charela, snook, fortuno or corvina, whose prices range between 43 and 53 soles per kilo at the door of the restaurant – about 7 soles less if you buy them at the terminal. .
Before the pandemic, prices were between 10 and 15 soles lower, something that can be perfectly attributed to the increase in the value of fuel and its impact on the entire product chain, from fishing to transportation. But not only.
The increase is also due to overexploitation. A few days ago, the chef Cucho La Rosa did a bit of journalistic archeology and rescued on his instagram an article from this newspaper dated 2003 entitled “The octopus is finished.” The text that he writes to accompany it follows the same line: “Octopus is scarce and therefore expensive, about 60 soles per kilo,” La Rosa claims. “Eighteen years ago, El Comercio asked consumers and cooks to step aside … it was never done, they only ‘agreed’ to devour octopus from a kilo onwards.” A relative compliance pact that requires urgent reassessment.
There are other pacts that are not fulfilled. Today the small croaker, which has not reached reproductive age and therefore should not be used, is marketed as corvinilla. The sole small as a tongue. And we are not going to talk about the problem of mussels, algae and hedgehogs because they would far exceed the space that this article has.
If we want to avoid the extinction of one of the bases of our gastronomic tradition, perhaps it is time to propose tougher closures and an effective control that avoids the repetition of embarrassing scenes in the news, but typical of the shrimp closed months, such as the sale of the crustacean at the door of the Villa María terminal, with the inspectors inside.
But a total ban will not solve the other problem: the brain drain. Peruvian cuisine has gone global, as have the job opportunities of the cooks who exercise it. Contrary to what happened in other hard times in the past, several of the chefs with the greatest potential – mainly middle ranks – are dedicating themselves to other fields or leaving Peru for offers that they consider better for their development. Given the uncertainty of the Peruvian market and the slow return to economic normality, it is easy to accept proposals from those who seek to exploit the place won by Peruvian cuisine elsewhere: without making too great an effort, this chronicler has seen offers from Spain materialize , Germany, the United States, Russia and even Asia, and closer Colombia and Mexico, in recent months. No one should be surprised: Peruvian cuisine and the labor market are now global entities in which entrepreneurs compete for the best talent.
Is a resurgence of Peruvian gastronomy possible under these conditions? As I never tire of saying, the future belongs to the optimists, yes, but we have to get down to work and perhaps it is convenient to be more demanding, as an area, with ourselves.