South America, Travel Stories

La Comida de Ecuador

I have been passing by the ladies of Shell for days now, slowly inhaling the aromas of meat roasting on skewers, freshly fried pancakes, and buttered corn. I have been carefully eyeing what they have to offer, working up the courage to approach them through the smoky haze of an open flame. Tonight was the night. I spotted an ear of corn I wanted and made my move. “Buenas noches señora, como se llama este del maiz?“ “Un choclo,“ she replied. “Me das uno por favor?“ And then she asked the best question one can be asked when buying food, “would you like that with cheese?“ Of course.
     To the best of my knowledge un choclo is a fairly burnt ear of corn slathered in what appears to be ranch dressing and then sprinkled with grated cheese resembling Parmesan. I have only taken a few bites and already my stomach is making warning noises of the intermittent grumbling kind. Or maybe that´s the two grilled cheese sandwiches I ate for dinner catching up to me, or the soup I had with lunch that I strained three bugs out of (best soup I ever had so I kept eating and stopped counting).
     My diet in Ecuador has been monochrome to say the least. If it´s white or yellow, I´ve eaten it. I am slowly making my way through the cream/beige family, appreciating the nuances in between. Yuca, (which I´m guessing is a cousin to the potato) is soft and salty and belongs to the beige category. Mata which is something between butter and cream cheese, has a nice milky white color. Un bolón is moving towards light brown on the color spectrum and has the unique texture of a meatball muffin. It´s base is plantain flour with pieces of chicharrón intermingled with cheese. (Notice a theme here)? It´s fantastic. Volquetero might be the most colorful and diverse dish I´ve eaten. The best I can compare it to is a big plate of nachos. It has layers of yuca chips, toasted corn kernels, white beans, and canned tuna on top sprinkled with lime juice. Oh, the taste of the rainbow! (Washed down with a tall glass of Ecuadorian cervesa). 
There are tiendas that offer hamburgers and pizza, but for now I am content to eat my way through the Ecuadorian color palette, ignoring the golden traveler´s adage of, “Don´t eat the street food!“ until my delicate American stomach can handle no more (or my pants no longer fit. Whichever comes first).

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