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Picarones: the sweet and cloying story of the origin of the Peruvian dessert

While in Spain they ate buñuelos, in Peru honey made the difference and gave life to one of our most popular desserts. Regarding the recent commercial for a soft drink brand in which the Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos said that the picarones were Chilean, we tell you the true story of their very Peruvian origin.

One of the most remembered scenes of the documentary Marca Perú that premiered in 2011 is the part in which Carlos Alcántara changes the donuts for the picarones to the Nebraska commissioner. After tasting our traditional candy, the sheriff agrees to barter. Something like this happens with all of us who eat picarones for the first time: we fall in love with its cloying flavour.

The history of this Creole dessert dates back to the time of the Viceroyalty. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, in our territory stews were prepared based on sweet potato and pumpkin with the conquest ingredients such as wheat flour were added. This mixture, very similar to Iberian fritters, is what we know today as picarones.

Aida Tam describes the picarones precisely as a fritter, only in the shape of a donut. The dough also has sweet potato, pumpkin, wheat flour, yeast, egg yolk, salt and anise. “At the end it is served hot and sprinkled with thick cane syrup,” she explains in her book ‘Vocabulary of Limeña Cuisine’.

“The picarón has a more or less rounded shape, although annular. Rather, we could say that the buñuelo is sometimes globular and that other times, it is possible to give it different shapes, cutting the dough with molds”.

Adán Felipe Mejía wrote an article describing the miracle of the picarón: “The picarónera, like a powerful queen, in her chair; with lordship and great dominance, she dips her hand in water by putting it in a tin jug that is close to the trough. She plunges her wet hand in with fingers joined. She scoops out a bit of succulent dough by skimming the pan. Her thumb does not meet the remaining fingers… ”.

(Photo: Getty Images)

And he adds, “then, ritual, solemn, graceful, imposing; with the certainty of someone who knows what he’s doing… he raises his hand over the pan, and very cautiously above the boiling butter, lets the dough drain, piercing it before falling, in the center, with the thumb that was unoccupied until that moment. instant… When falling into the pot… the miracle arose!”.

in procession

Sergio Zapata, in his “Dictionary of traditional Peruvian gastronomy”, mentions the relationship that many Creole preparations had with the procession of the Lord of Miracles: “With honey it is a nectar from heaven. The sweet of the great processions”.

The picarones were offered during the procession, where since the 17th century the criers offered anticuchos, choncholíes and picarones with honey. This same tradition has been preserved for 300 years and is lived during the month of October.

The procession of the Lord of Miracles in 1955. (El Comercio Archive)

Perhaps the best definition of all is given by the traditionalist Ricardo Palma, who points out that picarón “is not only the augmentative of picaro, but a kind of frying pan fruit that resembles what is called buñuelo in Spain.”

In the first years of the Republic, the consumption of the dessert was already massive during the festivities. Since then, the picarones were constituted as a dish that was sold in the old carts on public roads, a custom that is preserved to this day.

Source: Elcomercio

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