Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food + Ecuador = Interesting

Food + Ecuador = Interesting

I find it really hard to write about my experiences in a Journal type of format, so I’m changing it up a little bit this time.

Meals in Ecuador are a little more different than they are in the US. Breakfast (or Desayuno in Spanish) is pretty much the same as it is in the US. Yogurt, toast, maybe scrambled eggs. But here we can usually get fresh fruit juice for breakfast too! Mmm…

Lunch (Almuerzo) is the largest meal of the day. I suppose this circles around the idea that in Latin America lunch time is also time for siesta. Most stores close for lunch, and there are fewer buses and fewer people out and about during lunch. But eating establishments are always packed atuntil I puke. More food keeps appearing on my plate, I keep asking how it got there and they merely laugh at me. We eat rice at least once a day. (And Nicole my family DOES have a rice cooker). We eat a lot of mangos, and papayas. Next to rice I think the thing we eat the most are Plantains. You’ve seen theses they are the really green bananas that cost more than a banana should.

Okay so here's the scoop the banana is the top fruit and the plantain is the bottom fruit for more info go to http://grabemsnacks.com/what-is-a-plantain.html

Well here they are used much like a potatoes we roast them, and put butter on them. We make ‘mashed plantains’ we make plantain fritters all sorts of things are made with these. I made the mistake of saying I liked them on my first week and since then I have had opportunities to eat them almost daily. They even fry them up into potato chips which are quite good. Dinner (Cena) is very small, in fact most people don’t even eat dinner at all. The most food in consumed at lunch. Perhaps it’s so they can save room for Alcohol J I really don’t know why this is, but it’s nice to go to sleep without having a super full stomach. For dinner I usually have yogurt, toast or an empanada. The empanadas here are fabulous, nothing like the stuff we eat @Taco Time in the states. Although I really like Taco Time.

So far I haven’t had to eat anything really strange. However on my first weekend in Ecuador I traveled to Cuenca with a few other international students. On our last night we went to a restaurant that severs Cuy. If you’ve never hear do Cuy count yourself lucky. Cuy is a favorite food of the people in Cuenca, it is their equivalent of our turkey dinner in the US. What is Cuy you ask?.... well…. It’s Guinea pig! Yes, I mean those cute little rodents that they sale in pet stores in the US. Poor little ‘spot’ or ‘patches’ or whatever you called your pet Guinea pig, would have had a very different life if it were born in Cuenca.

Warning the following paragraphs may be to graphic for some readers.

In a moment of courage, or stupidity, (you decide) my friends and I decided we would try this new food. We had seen the preparation of Guinea pig in the street the day before we ate our Cuy dinner. The little rodents are killed as their brains are soundly squashed, they are gutted and then they are boiled so that all the hair falls off. Next the Guinea pig is placed on a skewer and is roasted over a fire, rotisserie style. All the while it is basted with butter and garlic to give it more flavor. Then the Guinea pig is placed on a platter and it’s ready to eat.

Our Guinea pigs were placed whole on a plate before us for dinner. Heads, teeth, claws and all still attached. At first we didn’t know exactly how to go about eating them, so we asked if they could be cut up. The establishment was happy to oblige, and they cut each guinea pig into quarters. I opted for one of the back quarters because I couldn’t bear the thought of the little head looking at me. However my quarter still had feet and claws, thankfully no tail. It’s appropriate to eat with your hands just like the way you eat chicken at KFC. The skin was crunchy and crispy just like fried chicken in the US. I’m sure you’re expecting me to say that it tastes ‘just like chicken’. I guess that is true to an extent more like the dark meat of chicken. On my quarter the legs had the most meat. But being in the medical field I struggled to eat the meat because I kept identifying the muscle groups and having flash backs to the cavers in anatomy lab.

Having tried Cuy once I have no future desire to eat it ever again. It was one of those things that I did to earn bragging rights and to try something new, but not for any other reason.

The brave man in the middle is our tour guide ('Alero?' we called him 'Al') He loves Cuy and he was willing to eat all the parts we weren't interested in. He says that the cheeks are his favorite. This is a picture of him gnawing on the head, and Tea (a girl with our group did really well with this new diet as well)

This is another appetizing picture of some food that we came across in the market place of Cuenca. "Roast Pig" Mmmm...

P.S. that picture of me at the top of the page is me eating Cuy...


Anonymous said...

Wow it looks like your having so much fun. Your so luckly that you have been able to travel so much. Keep me updated on your adventures they are so cool.


Chelsea said...

Wow Lex! That is far beyond my comfort level as a PA student. Good for you though. Looks like a great experience. I totally wish I could have the opportunity to force myself to use the little spanish I know. Good luck! And, keep blogging. Say hi to Kerri for me.

Anonymous said...

Lex, I was there for two years and I never tried the cui so you are very daring. Have you tried encebollado yet? Your host home is ulike any I ever saw but the clinic sounds familier. Hope you continue to have a good time, have you gone to the city center Cathedral where they have the Iguana's? See ya Mark Wimmer

Jed Jeni & Kenzi said...

The food definitely looks 'interesting'!! It sounds like you've had some great experiences!! What a great blog! I'm glad you have joined the blogging world! Yay!