02 July 2011

Meet Euphemia

Euphemia is the lovely woman who cooks my lunch most weekdays. She and her husband and two children live in Oropesa, the little village outside Cusco where I work. Attached to one side of their house is an extra room – more of a shack, really – where Euphemia runs a little restaurant. It’s painted bright yellow – as is the outside of her house – and is very small, seating no more than 13 people on rickety chairs and benches.

The restaurant is decorated with bright advertising posters for various local gaseosas – that’s soft drinks to non-Spanish speakers. It also has a DVD player and a television, on which we are treated each day to really badly dubbed, old movies. The TV and DVD stand is adorned with embroideries done, as Euphemia proudly explained to us one lunch time, by her elder son during his art classes at high school.

She also has a young son, two-and-a-half-year-old John, who plays around the restaurant while she works. He is shy of us gringos and, though she tells him we’re her friends, he usually hides behind her skirts when we’re there.

Euphemia’s husband is a policeman, and looks very handsome in his uniform. I made the mistake of telling her this one day – of course, I don’t yet have the Spanish to say this to her directly, so my workmate Nelida translates for me – and Euphemia immediately told me to keep my eyes off her man! She was smiling and laughing at the time, but I’m fairly sure she was serious! After that incident, Euphemia decided I needed a man, so now she’s keeping an eye out for any eligible locals – not only a cook, but a matchmaker as well!

Euphemia is a good cook. For just 3 soles, you can have a big bowl of soup and a main course – there’s no choice – you just have whatever she’s cooking on the day. But for 3 soles – about US$1 – you really can’t complain. For 2 soles, I usually just have el segundo, the main course. The food is plain but wholesome and delicious.

Euphemia, me and Lynn
One day last week, Euphemia told us she’d had a dream the previous night about me and Lynn, a volunteer from Scotland. In her dream, we had been baking bread, fishing in a local river and then selling the fish in the Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s main square. The religious connotations of the loaves and the fishes were obvious, even to me – and Euphemia thought it was a sign from God that she would have good luck. I’m not so sure about that, but I was very pleased that she was happy with her dream, strange though it was.

As with so many people who have little material wealth, Euphemia is a kind and generous woman. One lunch time, she was cooking some extra food for her family’s dinner and insisted we try a sample of the dish. I sometimes buy water from her – you get two types of water here, sin gas (without bubbles) and con gas (with bubbles). The other day when she had none sin gas, she insisted I take a free bottle con gas, because she couldn’t supply what I wanted. I tried to refuse, but was told in no uncertain terms, to TAKE THE WATER! Her husband was there at the time and told me it wasn’t wise to argue with her – I guess he knows from experience!

Euphemia calls me ‘mami’, which is sort of like calling me ‘honey’. I am proud to call her my friend!

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