Ecuador – Food: When Culture Conflicts with Values – by Abigail Blonigen. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Caption 1: Breakfast: Mote, a type of boiled corn or maíz, topped with tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Served with fresh juice, tea, bread, and tostados, or toasted corn.]
I have been a pescatarian for a little over a year, meaning I do not eat any meat except fish and seafood. Over the past few months, I had been eating fish less and less in order to transition to full vegetarian. I limit my dairy as well, though eggs are tricker as they’re a cheap and versatile source of protein. My reasons for choosing not to eat meat are simple: the environment and my love for animals. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest sources of global pollution, and the animals are more often than not living in horrendous conditions. In addition, it’s never made sense to me why we keep dogs as pets but eat pigs, another highly intelligent social animal, or why it’s not okay to eat horses, though there’s videos online of cows who can do hurdles as well. Giving up meat (for the most part) has freed me from this moral struggle, and it’s a great way to personally fight climate change.
[Caption 2: Soup is served with every meal besides breakfast. Sometimes it’s accompanied by popcorn, or canguil.]
I decided to delay full vegetarianism until after this trip because I knew it would be a struggle here. Vegetarians and vegans are far less common in Ecuador than in the United States. I’m not sure “vegetarian” means the same thing here, as people immediately ask me, “Do you eat fish? How about chicken?” My Spanish-English dictionary doesn’t have a word for “pescatarian,” so I don’t even try that one.
My host family knew about my diet from the get go, and I asked them right away if it was going to be problematic. They have been great thus far. I’ve been eating lots of tuna and eggs, as I don’t think they know what else to feed me. For breakfast, I usually have bread in some sort of bun/croissant form with jam or the peanut butter I brought from the United States. My host mom suggested I bring it as it’s not as popular in Latin America and it can be hard to find and expensive. My host mom makes me an egg, fried or scrambled, and some homemade juice: papaya, tamarillo, peach, grapefruit, mandarin, or a banana shake, among others. I usually have a cup of coffee and a banana or mandarin on the side.
Lunch at my house always consists of soup: tomato, quinoa, potato, mote (a type of corn), and countless others I cannot remember the names of. My host mom makes delicious soups with fresh vegetables and herbs. But here’s a twist: sometimes there will be a bowl of popcorn at the table. At first I thought it was a side dish, but I quickly learned you are supposed to put the popcorn or “canguil” in your soup. I had never heard of this, but it’s actually pretty good. The second course is always rice, an egg or some tuna, and a salad. Salad or “ensalada” does not mean lettuce and other vegetables topped with dressing as it does in the U.S. It means chopped up vegetables of any sort, usually without lettuce at all: cucumbers, broccoli, and tomato, for example, sometimes cooked and sometimes raw. Dinner is always leftovers from lunch.
Everyone’s host family cooks a little differently, so this is by no means the only typical Ecuadorian food. For example, my host mom doesn’t like spicy food, so we never have ají in our house: a spicy sauce made with tamarillos. Ají is considered a staple here, as it should be because it’s delicious. At a local restaurant, my meal consisted of of lentils, rice, beets, and radishes, not to mention eight of us dined on a three course meal for only twelve dollars total. My internship threw a pizza party and I tried mote (corn) pizza as well as banana pizza. I’d highly recommend the banana pizza topped with a layer of ají.
Overall, I do not feel as if I’m missing out on too much of the culture by not eating meat. It was a difficult decision: do I go back to eating meat so I can fully experience the food and the culture? Or do I stick to my own beliefs and values? The only meat that is really specific to Ecuador is “cuy” or guinea pig, which I would not want to try in the first place. I understand and respect the fact that here guinea pigs are food – they are farmed, they’re not domesticated, and they’re definitely not snuggly, but to me they are furry friends nonetheless.
Abigail Blonigen serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our guiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five years we have published over 300 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our volunteer student editors and writers come from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). We have an all volunteer staff. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang and NSR Student Editors and Writers. For a brief summary of our history, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Ellie Swanson and Marin Ekstrom, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu