LIMA, Peru – Are hard times threatening your Christmas dinner? Well then, Peru has the answer: GUINEA PIG! Officials in the coastal Peruvian province of Callao on Monday hailed the Andean rodent as a low-cost, low-fat alternative to a traditional turkey or roast pork Christmas dinner. Guinea pigs can feed seven or eight for about C$4, Callao official Mario Sanguinity told Associated Press Television. “The idea is to give the people a tasty, economical option,” he said. The presentation included a live guinea pig dressed as Santa Claus and eight of its comrades laid out fried, broiled and roasted in traditional dishes from different regions of Peru. Callao resident Silvia Carazas said she plans to make the switch to guinea pig at Christmas. “The animal is rich in protein and has zero cholesterol as well, very important for those of us looking to watch our weight,” she said. The tiny cuts of white meat are often compared to rabbit and dark chicken. Called “cuy” in Peru, guinea pig is a stable source of income for farmers and holds an elevated place in Andean folklore. A painting of the Last Supper hanging in the principal cathedral of the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco depicts Christ and the 12 disciples dining on guinea pig. © The Canadian Press, 2008
At first you may be tempted to consider this all in poor taste … I know I found it hard to stomach … but after giving a little more thought to food and the holidays I must also confess to finding a certain fascination with the idea of Christmas and Guinea Pigs.
Especially when the connection is made (even in an off-handed way) to the Lord’s Supper. I know that the locals who commissioned and painted it did it to reflect a little bit of their culture in the Bible’s story and to bring a greater understanding to the people. Cuy (guinea pig) is a real delicacy for many people in Peru – reserved for truly special occasions. But any kind of rodent (even the moderately cute ones) are completely non-kosher. They are unclean and would not be eaten by the Israelites.
But wasn’t that why Jesus was born on Christmas? To be the Passover Lamb … the Christmas guinea pig? Jesus took on human flesh so that on the cross He could then become unclean for us. The Christmas present of that little baby in a manger isn’t truly and fully received until He has grown up, suffered, and died for the sins of the world.
Isn’t that what ‘being a guinea pig’ (to borrow the expression) is all about – being a model of the human, a subject for testing so that humans might reap the benefit without suffering the harm. That’s the Christmas gift … that this perfect, sinless, innocent and holy child would become the bearer of all sin, and while bearing it on that cross be distasteful to, and forsaken by His own Father in heaven.
I’m pretty sure I won’t be heading down to the local pet shop to buy my Christmas meal any time soon, but the lowly guinea pig has given me some interesting food for thought this coming Christmas!