In Peru, everybody grows up seeing Inca Kola at supermarkets, restaurants, basically everywhere, just as Americans grow up with Coca Cola. But what other country has a national soda that can hold its own against Coke?
Here’s what it looks like:
It’s a soda that people say it tastes like bubble gum, and comes in only classic flavor and color. The graphic design and marketing strategies have very much influenced my opinion about Inca Kola.
In the ad above, we can see the the obvious gold color, attributing to the Incas’ wealth in gold. Th ad below demonstrates a catchphrase in English naming it “the golden kola.”
Because of this phrase, when asked what it tastes like, I always said it has a unique “golden taste.” There are also ethnic-looking borders on the label and across the ad. This celebration of ethnic pride makes it a legitimately Peruvian product.
IT started back in 1910 when an English couple began experimenting with a Peruvian plant called hierba Luísa (lemon verbena). It has come a long way, being sold right next to coke at McDonald’s in Peru. Coca Cola has bought half of Inca Cola, but Inca Cola still is highly preferred in Peru. When signing the contract at a press conference in 1999, the Coca Cola CEO M. Douglas Ivester had to drink a glass of Inca Cola.
This soda is a staple in Peruvian culture; if you look at the picture above, there’s a caption that says “El sabor del Peru.” In English, it means “The flavor of Peru.” You can’t get more Peruvian than that.
So as a class we all went to Mo-Chica, the supposedly Peruvian restaurant. Before going, I was incredibly biased; My whole life, ever since I can remember my parents, native Peruvians, always looked for adequate Peruvian restaurants in the U.S. However, my parents are very picky and in a way, the Peruvian food my mom makes isn’t very authentic, in that, according to my parents, restaurants in Peru rip you off, for example: for a lomo saltado, my mom would put a lot of beef strips on each plate whereas a restaurant would save money putting very little meat and a heap of rice on each plate.
Obviously, my parents have high standards, if they disparage of even restaurants in Peru, and they especially didn’t like Mo-Chica when we came to eat here in the fall of 2010. We all ordered different dishes and my parents found fault with everything, and I remembered the differences when we visited this past week. Major differences included how rice was served in a separate bowl, which is a distinctively Asian tradition. Also the ceviche appetizer had a great deal of variation. There’s ceviche in many Latin American countries, but the Mo-Chica ceviche was the first I’d ever seen with seaweed included. One of the biggest surprises was the seco de cordero, which means lamb instead of the usual beef I”m used to. When it came I was very surprised at all its entirety—there was an addition of beans, a strange new flavor attributed to the beer sauce in the cilantro sauce; and the lamb flavor completely changed the dish that I grew up with.
For me, all these changes are inferior to the comforting dishes that represent home, however in regards to authenticity, it’s difficult to label what’s authentically Peruvian. Peru is made of many influences including Chinese and Japanese, and there are different native foods from different regions like the Amazon and the Andes. Thus, with such a great variation already in Peru, it is inevitable that there’s a constant debate aboutwhat is authenticity in Peruvian cuisine.
So the Mo-Chica dinner that seems like a completely new dish to me, may be a dinner that tastes like home to someone else. And many people who are unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine in general may thoroughly enjoy it regardless of authenticity; Take it from my friend:
On Friday afternoon I went to a truck near campus which didn’t really have an obvious name. I’ll call it the dim sum truck. I decided to go with the perspective of the woker in the dim sum food truck. I considered customer service and products when creating the personality of the cashier/server.
Well, it’s just another day in this ho-hum truck. Same old corner of Hoover and Jefferson, next to the that yogurt place. Even though we get a a few people lining up around lunch time, it’s still boring just waiting here and making the same food over and over. After a while, the locals and the USC kids all start to blur together and I can’t distinguish one from another.
And now finally, I get a break, lunch time! But in order to save money, I have to bring a bag lunch from home and pass up on the delicious, but over-priced steamed buns that we sell at the truck. I step outside, to get a bit a fresh air, but what’s the use, I’m at the corner of a busy intersection breathing in who knows how many toxic fumes. A homeless man walks by but I look away quickly. I guess I’m better off than that guy, but still.
Back at work and a girl says hello and asks for a mango pudding. I don’t bother with a greeting and just say “that’ll be four dollars.” I used to ask customers “how are you” when I first started working, but I realize that they rush and say “fine, thanks, I’ll have the—” and I honestly don’t care how they’re doing anyway, so I don’t bother anymore. She waits around, just reading her phone and takes her mango pudding with a quick thank you devoid of real thanks. Whatever, at least she left a quarter in the tip jar. As if a quarter really makes a difference.