The Unvegan

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Strange Meats: Alpaca

It doesn't taste like wool.
It doesn’t taste like wool.

Alpaca wool is known to be some of the softest and warmest wool in the world, which made it even more intriguing to me as a meal. When I was traveling in Peru, I knew the meat of that woolly animal had to be tasted.

My quest wasn’t easy, and the translations on the menus didn’t make it any easier. During the course of the trip, I happened upon a dish called “German Nicket to the Pleasure,” “Red Shoe,” “Chicken a la Coca-Cola” and the most frightening of all, “Chicken Locust.” At a restaurant in Puno, I ordered the seemingly simple “Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.” When it arrived, it was spaghetti, some sort of yellowish sauce and a massive chicken breast just plopped atop the noodles, where you might typically picture a diminutive meatball.

These experiences aside, I found my first alpaca on a menu in Cuzco. Although I have no recollection of the name of the restaurant, I can still picture it adjacent to the Plaza de Armas, with plastic chairs and tables set outside, inviting passersby to wander in for some exotic tastes.

My alpaca of choice was called “Alpaca con Tres Salsas.” Thinking of salsa in the traditional American way, I ordered it and expected some spicy salsas. In my lapse of Spanish reasoning, I had forgotten that salsa simply means sauce, so when my alpaca came with bright yellow mustard, deep red ketchup and a semi-translucent sauce that may have been mayonnaise, I was pretty surprised. Nonetheless, I had not ordered the camel-cousin for the sauces, but for the meat.

The meat looked like a sort of subprime cut of beef, with a sickly sort of greyish tone. Knowing that this wasn’t meant to be beef, I didn’t let these thoughts get to me. I cut in and began to eat. It was good. Real good. The texture was as if it had been overly tenderized, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. It made it really easy to cut, chew and swallow, the three most basic needs of any meal. It also tasted great. Similar to beef, but you would never mistake the taste for being actual beef.

Alpaca is definitely a dish I would recommend for anyone looking to break free of the confines of poultry, beef and mutton.