By Erin Faltermeier, Sustainable Tourism Volunteer

There’s no more wonderful smell in Ollantaytambo than the delicious aroma escaping Irma’s kitchen around lunch and dinner times.

Lucky visitors have the opportunity to spend the evening with Irma, a culinary legend here in Ollanta, in the Peruvian cooking lessons offered through our Sustainable Tourism program

We start the afternoon with a trip to the local market to buy fresh naturally produced ingredients and to see delicious Peruvian produce such as the tart granadillas and the succulent cucumber fruit!

We then take the short walk around the corner to Irma’s house, where she has already prepared a chilled pitcher of Chicha Morada, a traditional Andean refreshment made from purple corn boiled with spices and pineapple peels, to enjoy while chopping vegetables.

For our appetizer we prepare and enjoy causa, a traditional layered dish of potatoes, chicken, and vegetables. We then move on to our main course, rocoto relleno, a stuffed pepper dish customarily prepared for birthdays. These peppers are so hot when raw that Irma must wear thick rubber gloves to remove the seeds, but give only a subtle kick when cleaned and cooked by Irma’s expert hands. No one gets a free pass in Irma’s kitchen, as everyone works up an appetite chopping and stirring before sitting down to eat together.

At the end of the evening we wish Irma “Buenas Noches” with full stomachs and wonderful memories of an authentically Peruvian evening.

Erin Faltermeier is interning with the Sustainable Tourism program for three months before returning to her home state of Virginia to graduate from the College of William and Mary in May. She likes to distract herself from thinking about what she will do for the rest of her life by taking long scenic hikes around Ollanta.