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In Peru, pachamanca isn't simply a method of cooking; it is a celebration in and of itself. To partake in pachamanca is to be a part of a community, if for no other reason than the simple fact the means of preparation demands community involvement.
The symbolic overtones of earth, life and death are strong in every aspect of the feast. The name 'pachamanca' is derived from the Quechan words for 'earth' and 'pot' because it literally uses the ground itself as the vessel for cooking.
Unlike other methods of cooking that involve burying the food to cook, the coals are not present in a pachamanca or, if they are included, there presence is secondary. Instead, the heat for cooking is derived from rocks that are put over a fire prior to the cooking process. Peru has an abundance of rounded rocks that absorb heat well and these provide a more efficient heat source than simple coals.
The origin of the pachamanca goes back centuries and pre-dates the Incas. Originally, pachamanca's were cooked using only vegetables but the introduction of livestock by the Spanish saw the seamless integration of meats into the style of cooking as well.
Typically, the pachamanca features several marinated meats such as chicken, pork and beef, numerous types of beans and potatoes, and corn humitas. In different regions bananas, corn and preferred local vegetables - notably the indigenous tubers oca and mashua - are included as well. All of it becomes infused with the smoky earthy flavors caused by the cooking method and the distinctive aroma of highland herbs such as huacatay and chincho that are invariably added.