It’s 2.30pm on a hot Saturday afternoon and we’re sitting in a large shed at the bottom of someone’s garden in Tacaronte.
Our party of 7½ (Bea is only 5 years old) are seated in front of the corner bar. To our right, a long trestle table seats 20 or more people, predominantly women. Above our heads long strings of bunting in the form of red squares with the words ‘Red Square’ written on (for those who have trouble identifying the obvious), hang from the rafters.
Outside on the verandah two barbecues are being stoked up by Yayo and his wife while a dozen men stand around drinking beer, smoking and talking about the football. There’s a TV screen set at one end of the terrace, ready to show the Spain vs Sweden match which is due to kick-off at five.
Jack and I are the ‘gringos’ in this gathering. Almost everyone else here is either a Peruvian immigrant or the offspring of Peruvian immigrants and the Spanish is fast, vowel curtailed and difficult to zone in on, but the faces are welcoming, the smiles are wide and the greetings are kisses.
Previously running a Peruvian restaurant in the town, our host and hostess now hold this monthly, invitation only lunch for their friends in the shed at the bottom of the allotments behind their house. It’s an extremely informal affair where you help yourself to cutlery and if you ask for more bread you’re handed a loaf in a paper bag and a bread knife.
While we drink our beers, a basket of bread is placed in the centre of the table next to a small dish of a bright orange coloured dip. I break a piece of the bread and ‘dip’.
“¡Aye! Shouts one of our party on spotting the bread about to enter my mouth, “¡No! ¡Es muy picante!”
I eat the bread. She’s not wrong, very hot is indeed what it is, but delicious, and definitely moorish. I reach for another piece of bread and repeat the dose, explaining that we Brits actually have a palette for very hot food, curry being our nation’s favourite dish. Everyone thinks the quantity of dip that Jack and I are putting on our bread is hilarious and they clearly think we could implode at any moment. This is coming from a nation of Canarios, and it seems Peruvians, who if faced with a Madras would run screaming from the building.
Having established our credentials as fire-eaters, we are systematically urged to try every dish that makes its way to our table and told ingredients and basic cooking instructions for each. First comes the ceviche; raw fish, celery and onions marinated in lemon juice and fresh coriander creating a sharp, aromatic succulence to the fish. Then comes a corn cake filled with goats cheese and a pastry covered swiss chard pie which tastes similar to Greek ‘spanakopitta’ but without the feta.
When the big, fat, ‘papas rellenas’ arrive, we’re encouraged to add some of the dip to them to spice up the savoury meat and sultana centres for our British taste buds. Then, while our glasses are being replenished, a large plate of barbecued spare ribs arrives to round off the main courses.
Amidst much excitement and building expectation, the postres (puddings) arrive. For our neighbour Marlene, these are clearly the highlight of the meal and she enthuses about the ‘mousse chantilly’, a soft sponge topped with light, fluffy, nutty vanilla mousse. But Jack and I prefer the chocolate brownies; rich, moist and cinnamon flavoured topped in a dark chocolate sauce, and the lemon pie; a light, tangy lemon meringue on a butterscotch biscuit base…probably the best pudding in the world.
The heat inside the shed is rising as the sun shines mercilessly outside (a fairly unusual phenomenon for Tacaronte) and many of the women have brought beautiful hand fans which are creating a gentle series of drafts that move the air. The chatter is loud and plates and glasses are being passed around and re-filled as the afternoon passes blissfully by. It’s almost five o’clock when the bill arrives and we pay over our €14 (£11) each and head home to the lure of a siesta.
Many Canarian families have very close ties with Latin America, their forefathers having fled the poverty of the Canaries to the promise of the New World whenever the economy faltered. As a result, there’s a little piece of most South American countries alive and well in the hidden corners of the north of Tenerife. As far as Peru is concerned, that corner is a garden shed in Tacaronte.