Greetings from the land of 12-hour days and 12-second sunsets. Dusk isn’t a time of day; it’s a fleeting moment in time.
As I write this, I’m lying in bed recovering from a throat infection. Cultures were not taken to determine what kind of infection. The diagnosis was, “your tonsils are extremely inflamed and full of puss.” Yuck. So a couple penicillin shots and antibiotic pills later, I’ve been told to rest all day. We are hosting a team from Ringgold, Maryland. They are doing kids activities and construction projects at the school and I can’t be with them. So, that stinks. But the doctor and Samuel, for that matter, are concerned because I had a bad throat infection just a couple months ago and now it’s back. I apologize to any Canyon Hills team members who may have shared a water bottle with me last week. I trust you won’t get sick.
In my bed-ridden state I’ve been going through photos I’ve taken since arriving back in April. I have several pictures of food. It’s a common question, isn’t it? What kind of food do they eat there? Well, it’s not that different, but the differences are a bit … odd.
Let’s start with ubiquitous McDonald’s! Besides your typical burger and fries, you can also order green (verde, or unripe) plantain empanadas and ripe plantain (maduro) with cheese for only 99 cents!
At the metro station (express buses in Guayaquil), I saw a McDonald’s ice cream stand. No food, just ice cream. It’s been a while since I got a hot fudge sundae, but the prices seem higher than I remember.
I was so excited to find Orbit gum at the grocery store, I snatched it up.
Unfortunately, two days later it had melted and leaked peppermint oil into my backpack.
Even though Ecuador is a warm country, soup is a common dish. This is cheese soup. It has noodles, potatoes and lumps of white cheese and is quite good. The green stuff is oregano.
Chicken broth is traditionally served at a wake. We timed our arrival at the wake to make sure we got soup. It was tasty, but even at 11 PM I was too hot to enjoy hot soup. That was several months ago. It’s cooler now.
Since my arrival, I’ve heard of ball soup, but only recently got to try it. Many tourists avoid it because they think it’s made of some poor animal’s testicles. However, the “ball” is actually made of green plantain filled with a ground beef mixture. Throw in a few more vegetables, et voilá. It’s probably my favorite of the soup I’ve had so far.
When you buy a bag of potato chips chances are it includes a packet of mayonnaise. They love putting mayo on potato chips and french fries and rice and potato salad and hotdogs and hamburgers… and anything, really.
One night I was horrified to find Lupe crushing up a whole bag of potato chips. As we were getting food ready for a team arriving from the States, I told her that we prefer to eat whole potato chips instead of crumbs. She explained that they use potato chips as a hotdog topping. Thus they must be crushed. They even have crushed potato chips to put on your hotdogs at the movie theaters, along with mayo.
One of Lupe’s best dishes that she likes to make for the U.S. teams is rotisserie chicken with a generous helping of chicken lasagna and a side salad.
Another night we serve the teams Ecuadorian tacos. The base is a meat mixture that includes ground beef, hotdogs, onions, bell peppers, beans and cheese. Other toppings include guacamole, tomato and onion salad, shredded carrots, mustard, mayo and ketchup.
Salads are pretty common, whether as a side, like this potato, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and bean salad to go with a grilled chicken breast.
Or like this side salad of cucumber and green olives, which we had with the chicken and lasagna.
Or it can be a main dish, like this impromptu lunch of tomato, onion and tuna salad on bread. We fed 3 people and had leftovers for under $3.
In a typical Ecuadorian meal, rice is not a side. It is the base to which you add a pork chop, a salad and stewed beans. Then, you crown the rice with a “patacón”(green plantain fried and flattened into a disc).
Or to which you add chicken, pasta salad and fried “maduros” (ripe plantains).
Or to which you add stewed chicken and a bit of what looks like potato salad, but turns out to be apple and pineapple salad with carrots and mayo.
A “churro” in Ecuador is a hotdog wrapped in a tortilla and fried. A “tostada” in Ecuador is a toasted bologna sandwich, usually served at breakfast.
A typical party potluck includes: hotdogs, tuna sandwiches, cups of jello, spicey jalapeño meatballs, various size and shape cheese empanadas.
Another popular party treat are these candies made with powdered milk and food coloring to look like vegetables. The texture is like marzipan, but less bitter and it sticks to your teeth as you chew.
Today, I’ll close with a verse that’s running circles in my head.
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my path secure.” Psalm 18.32