Everywhere we read about Amazon markets. But today, it’s the real thing.
Where are we going? To what you can buy in the Amazon Basin.
From Jungle to Table
Our story starts in an upscale restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia. Founded by a Danish culinary superstar, Claus Meyer, Gustu is run by world class chefs who are committed to local ingredients.
One source is the Amazon Basin:
At Gustu you could order a tuyo tuyo appetizer that began as a beetle larvae in an Amazonian palm tree. Their caiman carpaccio comes from an alligator-like specimen that is caught during an annual night time October hunt. And their paiche is a “jaws” predator fish that can grow to 330 pounds and eat everything that crosses its path, even small boats. Transporting paiche back to La Paz requires a nine-hour boat ride, then a 10-hour drive through the Amazon, after that the Andes–all with appropriate refrigeration.
Our Bottom Line: The Power of the Market
Gustu and others like it participate in a market that partners South American chefs with an indigenous tribe. On the demand side, we have chefs who need the rain forest. Meanwhile, supply comes from the Tacana people who have the appropriate land, labor, and capital. For example, during the caiman hunt, they have two sharpshooters looking for glowing red eyes in the water that they “whack” and net when they find them, a “notary” measuring the creatures, and the village mayor cutting fillets.
In their relationship, everyone has an incentive to make it work. As a source of inspiration and local ingredients, the market makes sense for the demand side. And the supply side needs the bolivanos. They told the Independent that they use the money for their school’s internet connectivity.
I wonder if the school connects to Amazon.
My sources and more: I began this culinary journey in the NY Times. Continuing with the New Yorker and the Independent, it became even more interesting. Lastly, you might enjoy, as did I, seeing a Gustu menu at their website.