Ivo is a social butterfly. His wings are vast and brightly colored, and in Lima, the sun glitters off them like high beams off a disco ball. It is both mesmerizing and inspiring. In comparison, I’m sort of a social… yak. Or maybe one of those weird nocturnal monkeys with giant eyes. I love meeting new people, but my social skills have largely atrophied since early college, and I still struggle with humor in Spanish.
However, in our time here and through Ivo, I have gotten to know Michael and Silvia, a great couple who love good food and fresh air. Getting to know them while we grill out at their house in Mala has been one of the greatest pleasures of my time in Peru. Out of their extraordinary generosity, they even invited my family to spend an evening at the farmhouse.
Besides the company, the best part of Mala is the food. Since the house is bordered by a homegrown herb garden (soon to be joined to by several trees, including avocados and limes), all the flavors are literally off the branch and into the oven. The meat is handpicked by two of the most critical chefs I’ve ever met (Michael and Ivo), and it is cooked either on the open grill or slowly over low heat. The latest addition has been the Chinese box, a simple wooden box with hot coals on the top that–over about five hours–roasts ribs until the meat slides right off the bones.
While the boys are busy cooking, if you feel like doing anything besides just enjoying the birdsong, conversation, and beer, there’s a traditional game called Zapito (Little Frog) in the yard. Although it still needs a bit of love in the form of sandpaper and paint, this clever game is the Peruvian version of cornhole. Of course, while cornhole uses a bean bag and a huge board with a single wooden hole, the Peruvians have rigged up a game that seems profoundly impossible (yet nonetheless addictive) to play while not entirely sober.
In short, each player gets several heavy gold coins, and tries to toss them into the holes on top of the board. The more impressive the hole location, the higher the point value. The most impressive hole? The little frog’s little freaking mouth. It’s SMALL. You actually have to throw the coin sideways to have any chance of success. I have not had much success yet.
The main attraction for the family was a BB gun rifle. Apparently Dad owned one as a kid, so he had a bit of an unfair advantage.
Ivo wasn’t afraid to go pro. After a few beers, he and Michael usually end up with their backs against the fence opposite the target. I could have sworn when Chris took a shot there was a surprised squawk, but we didn’t find any evidence (or any bullet though, so…).
Finally, also joining us for the evening were Thor and Loki. The studly blonde is Thor, and his cheeky belly up sister is Loki. You would never guess by looking at them today, but these two massive, healthy, well-fed mutts didn’t always have it so good. Apparently, Michael and Silvia quite literally scooped them up out of the dirt lot outside of a highway-side shop as puppies. Now though, their non-stop tail wagging and doggie smiles are a constant reminder to appreciate every minute in Mala.
If that’s not a vision of happiness, I don’t know what is.