Once upon a time…

…there lived a Spanish king who ruled the South American country of Peru from afar. In those days the will of the King was upheld by his representative in the country, the Viceroy. Peru’s Viceroy ruled the Lima with gold stripped from the earth of the lush country, and as a wealthy, privileged man he had his choice of lovers and concubines. It was a common prostitute, however, that stole his heart. But I shouldn’t say common; first because the Viceroy fell in love with the woman which made her very special indeed, and second because certainly the woman was no fool.

When the Viceroy said he wanted to marry her, she refused to give in so easily to a man who could toss her aside in a heartbeat if he so chose. Taken aback but very much in love, the Viceroy asked what she wanted – what he could give her to prove himself. So she said to him, “Bring me the moon at my feet and I will be yours.”

And the Viceroy hesitated. Was there nothing else she wanted? Gold? Silver? But no, she insisted on the milky pearl of the sky as a wedding gift.

So the Viceroy, not easily dismayed, started building. He created an enormous garden filled with lush green areas for walking and pools of water. The carefully sculpted gardens were easily the most beautiful and elaborate in Lima; from above, geometric beauty, symmetry and ornate perfection with paths encircling clear ovals of crystal water. After the gardens were complete he waited for a calm night when the wind was sleeping and took his lover for a walk by the garden pools. The bushes and flowers were shadows of their daytime vibrancy and life, but she enjoyed the secluded oasis in the dusty city. At the edge of a pool of water the Viceroy smiled at the woman with a face of love, and asked her to look to her feet. As the moon reflected on the water, kissing her toes, she knew the Viceroy had passed her test.

Here it was, the moon at her feet, so, true to her word, she would be his. For a man who would give her the moon was one worth marrying.

For love…that’s Lima. You feel it there – family, and tradition. That’s why today, Mother’s Day, is not a commercial holiday there. Yes, young boys and girls sell helium Mother’s Day balloons in the streets for five soles (a rip-off, but a good business opportunity for entrepreneurial Limenos), but even these children will go home to their mothers and kiss them once on cheek today in the normal Peruvian greeting. Every day in this city, lovers kiss on city benches and at the back of public buses where the world of Limenan traffic can see; they hug openly and talk secretively – heads close together, with eyes only for each other.

Friends talk about relationships over long lunches or tea, not with complaints, but with emotion, love, respect, longing, and openly. Relationships – life here is all about relationships. Despite all the banks, all the money (and lack of money and jobs), there’s a contentedness here, instead of ambition for more…more money, more things, someone better, more handsome, more wealthy. It’s beautiful. And even as the pollution presses down on you, crushing your energy and sucking the water from your body while the humidity forces the dirty liquid back in, I love this city like a Limeno – openly, fearlessly, and with my whole heart.

  • Amie Watson
  • : Amie Watson is a Montreal-based food and travel writer, tech journalist, television contributor, copywriter, researcher and founder of the Fork That restaurant app. She loves all things local, organic, gluten-free and dairy-free but, most importantly, delicious (e.g. she will never love celery root, even if it’s organic and weeded by pampered, free-range goats). Her skills include slicing, dicing, braising, broiling and Pacojet-izing. When not dreaming of macadamia nut-vanilla bean gelato, she can be found interviewing and collaborating with chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers; writing recipes; planning cookbooks; and guiding food tours. She's currently the food features writer for the Montreal Gazette.
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