Sharing The Peruvian Table
Potatoes and Edible Clay: A surprising but practical combination
By James B. Young
Visitors to the Peruvian Andes may be surprised to find their potatoes and other foods served with clay sauce. Stifle your gag reflex. It’s not such a bad idea.
It must have worked, because even today Andean people carry little balls of clay, which when dissolved in water, can be used to cure “sick stomach.” Edible clay was so important to the ancient Incas that it was used to pay ransoms and carried along when fleeing from the Spanish.
What’s in the clay that made it so effective? Credit is given to the absorbent quality of its main ingredient, kaolin, also known as “China clay.” Until the early 1990s kaolin was the active ingredient in the anti-diarrhea medicine Kaopectate. Kaolin is still used in ceramics, medicine, coated paper, paints, inks, toothpaste, cosmetics, and as a light diffusing material in white incandescent light bulbs.
So the next time you’re in the Andes and are asked “Would you like clay sauce with that?” you might consider saying, “Yes.” A healthy dollop might just save your vacation.