The Incas had two main meals a day, one in the early morning and one in the afternoon. They both did them sitting on the floor without a table. For the common people, the Inca diet was mostly vegetarian since the meat of camelids, ducks, guinea pigs, and game such as deer and vizcachas, was so precious that it was reserved only for special occasions. More common was freeze-dried meat (ch’arki), a popular food for travelers. A staple food was a porridge made from quinoa, and near the coast fish was eaten, usually in stews. Using small reed boats, the Inca fishermen caught anchovies, sardines, tuna, salmon, bass, and shellfish.
Food was prepared in stone or clay stoves over fires made from wood or llama dung, so most food was boiled or roasted. Corn was cooked into pancakes or toasted, while popcorn was considered a special indulgence. Potatoes were another staple food, and for storage they were often dried or freeze-dried as chuño. Quinoa and cañigua grains were also important, along with tubers such as oca, mashua, and maca. Additional flavors could be achieved by adding herbs and spices, especially chili peppers.
According to the writings of some chroniclers, the civilization of the Incas liked to hunt different types of birds that inhabited the different ecological niches of the Latin American territory.
The wild ducks that mostly inhabited the lakes and lagoons of the Andes were hunted using different techniques, of which the best known were slingshots and bows with arrows. Once captured, the prey were plucked and taken to local markets where they could exchange these products with others, such as potatoes, corn, vegetables or clothes. One of the most hunted places was undoubtedly the great Lake Titicaca where the Incas managed their natural resources very carefully, hunting only mature birds and thus allowing the persistence of individuals for the future.
The Incas also used the eggs of birds, such as field partridges, turkeys and ducks with which they prepared their dishes, some were used for traditional medicine. The most preferred birds of the Inca people were the coots, partridges, guans, and turtle doves. These birds were cooked in stews, broths, and if there was good hunting, they were kept by means of the natural dehydration process, with salt and aromatic herbs.
Since ancient times the first inhabitants who arrived in the American continent, practiced the activity of hunting, for which they used sharp spear points. The first records of this activity were recorded in the famous cave paintings found throughout the territory of Peru.
The first culture that originates in Peru is the Caral civilization, which already practiced a well-developed organization, its hunting activities with slingshots made of cotton fibers, later the different cultures succeeded it, among the most important are the Nazca, Wari, Tiahuanaco who created very effective hunting instrument. Thanks to these technologies, the Incas were able to provide themselves with certain animals such as deer, guanacos, vicuñas, bears.
This culture was also attached to the tribes of the Amazon jungle where they organized hunting with arrows made from chonta wood, one of the hardest, and to which they added the poison of frogs to paralyze their prey such as monkeys, wild pigs, jaguars. .
The Incas were also excellent breeders of domestic animals such as llamas and alpacas, which represented their main source of economy (they used their wool, meat, and manure as fertilizers). Regarding the vicuñas, these were considered property of the emperor, so their hunting was prohibited, and it was only organized on very special dates, which they called Chakuy.
The houses of almost all families raised guinea pigs, which they ate only on special occasions such as festivals or more important agricultural tasks (planting and harvesting). These meats were consumed in soups, roasts, and were also dehydrated to be used as cold cuts on long-distance trips.
The Incas carried an intense fishing activity both in the Pacific Ocean, and in the rivers and lakes of the Andes, rivers of the jungle. For this, the Incas used various techniques, perhaps one of the most famous was the use of nets and hooks. Sometimes they also used the toxic plant of Barbasco whose roots were crushed thereby obtaining a whitish substance that was deposited in the streams and this acted immediately, causing the fish to come to the surface. We have to clarify that this technique was abolished since the Pachaquteq period, who had established its prohibition under severe penalties.
In the different archaeological finds, discovered in different archaeological centers, it was evidenced that the pre-Inca cultures, and consumed marine products constantly, these coastal societies at the time of being conquered by the Incas, continued with their fishing traditions , which was later very well administered by the Inca lords. The most consumed products were Pejerrey, Cabrilla, Lenguado, crabs, etc. For better conservation, these products were salted and then taken to the different local markets.
There is also information that the Inca king used to consume these very fresh marine products, for which the ancient runners made the maximum effort to send them from the coast of Arequipa to Cusco in less than a day.