The perfect momento? Discovering treasures in the jungle

(Fine Dining Lovers) Why finding monkey poo is like winning the biology lottery; how to rescue an almost-extinct indigenous Amazonian language; why bats are vital to the tequila industry’s survival according to the National Geographic Society; and food’s role in developing memory were some of the subjects discussed by a cast of guest speakers as diverse as the Amazon, host destination for Momento, chef Virgilio Martínez’s alternative four-day food festival.

Jungle vibes at Momento Amazonas. Courtesy of Mater Iniciativa.

Organized in conjunction with Mater Iniciativa research center spearheaded by Martínez’s sister Malena, the second edition of Momento was based out of Inkaterra in the heart of Peru’s Amazon, bringing together botanists, biologists, a neurosurgeon, and a linguist among others to lead talks. Fine Dining Lovers navigated fast-flowing rivers, bridges suspended across the rainforest canopy, lakes home to anaconda and caiman in Tambopata nature reserve and plenty of Gin’ca gin made from rainforest-sourced botanicals to get the lowdown on Momento Amazonia.

The importance of monkey poop

“Finding monkey poop is like discovering gold,” says India-born Varun Swamy, a Peru-based tropical forest ecologist. “For the past 10 years, I’ve been working on understanding the effect of losing large unprotected native animals such as spider monkeys and large birds through overhunting. We mustn’t let a forest of trees trick us into believing that everything is well. If these animals take one step in the wrong direction, they could end up as dinner or lunch. How does that affect diversity? Certain animal species are critically important in terms of the rainforest’s ecological road and need to be monitored. Seed dispersal is critical for regeneration but how do we know they have dispersed? The most obvious way is in monkey poop, which I tell my field assistants is like gold and it’s really important to document.”

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