Global Studies and a Poem, Annotated – Food and Memories – by Abigail Blonigen. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[encebollado1: This is the encebollado I had at an Ecuadorian restaurant in Chicago. It was served with rice, limes, and tostados, or roasted corn. The wait staff (who were from Quito) were very impressed when I asked for aji!]
Food and drink have a way of bringing people together, more so than almost anything else. Every culture, family, and individual has their specialty dish and their favorite beverage. Drinking culture varies greatly across the globe, but has one commonality: drinking too much alcohol makes one feel pretty sick the next day. Naturally, many cultures have dishes that are supposed to help one feel better in this situation. The English breakfast, the Mexican menudo, and the Vietnamese pho have all been cited as hangover “cures.”
The Ecuadorian version of this dish is called encebollado, which I will explain below in a poem. This smelly soup holds a special place in my heart, so much so that when I came across it at an Ecuadorian restaurant in Chicago, it brought tears to my eyes. This poem is a testament to how meaningful a dish can become when tied to memories, experiences, people, and places, especially when those people and places are very far away.
Hangover Soup – A Poem
In Ecuador, the word for hangover is chuchaqui.
I will never forget it.
Not after I stumbled downstairs
to the water pitcher
the morning after my friend’s birthday party
as my host dad was cooking breakfast.
He looked me straight in my
bloodshot eyes and asked,
Chuchaqui, I replied.
What happened next changed my life forever.
My host dad handed me
a bowl of the most questionable soup
I had ever seen.
Encebollado,  it was called.
Tuna, tree tomatoes,
pickled onion and yuca,
drowned in greasy broth and topped with
mustard, lime juice, hot sauce de ají,
popcorn, and banana chips.
Do not judge a soup by its smell.
The first bite
almost turned me off,
but as soon as that soup
went from esophagus to stomach,
I knew that the Ecuadorians had found it:
the hangover cure.
¿Te gusta? asked my host dad,
his mustache turning upwards
into a smile.
I cannot make encebollado here,
as many of the ingredients
are explicitly Ecuadorian,
but I crave it
just as I crave
the seven hour long bus rides
through the Andes,
the wet heat of the Amazon,
the mangrove mazes of the coast,
and the smooth Spanish on my lips.
The best I could do for this weekend’s chuchaqui
[encebollado2: This was the first time I ever tried the dish, as referenced in the poem.]
 Many slang terms in Ecuador come from the Indigenous Kichwa language. A branch of the more well known Quechua language, Kichwa is spoken in Ecuador, Colombia, and parts of Peru. I am unsure if the word chuchaqui is completely Kichwa or an interpretation of it. This source says it comes from the Kichwa word chaqui which is the feeling after chewing on coca leaves. The word for hangover in Spanish, though it clearly varies region to region, is resaca.
 We exchange students were advised to not drink water from the tap, even in the big city of Quito. This is because the water could have elements that our American bodies were not used to. Because of this, my host family kept a pitcher of boiled water out for me to fill my water bottle.
 Breakfast usually consisted of an egg, scrambled or fried, pan (bread), jam, and instant coffee. This day, however, was a special occasion.
 Cebolla is the Spanish word for onion, so encebollado roughly means “onioned.”
 Tree tomatoes, tamarillos, or tomates de árbol, are a fruit native to the Andean highlands. Shaped like an egg, they grow on bushes and are found in soups, sauces, and made into juice.
 Yuca, or cassava, is a root vegetable kind of like a potato, but with a rougher exterior and almost stringy interior. Yuca was in almost every soup I tried and is also excellent fried.
 Ají means chili pepper in Spanish, but it’s also the word for the Ecuadorian signature hot sauce. Though it could be found in grocery stores, the best ají was homemade with tree tomatoes, ají amarillo (Andean yellow chili peppers), onion, cilantro, and lime juice. It is found in every restaurant and household, used on literally everything, and is delicious.
 Popcorn and banana chips (chifles) were set out as a topping any time soup was served. Soup was typically the first course for both lunch and dinner.
 Do you like it?
 Busses were extremely cheap to ride in Ecuador and could take you almost anywhere in the country.
 My group went on a trip to Yasuní National Park on the outskirts of the Amazon Rainforest, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
 The word for mangrove in Spanish is manglar. We visited the northwestern coast of Ecuador near Esmeraldas and learned about the importance of these trees. Usually found on coasts in tropical areas, mangroves keep soil from eroding and help protect coastal communities from tropical storms. Mangrove forests hold more carbon than even rainforests, making them important worldwide. These forests are being threatened by rising sea levels and the shrimping industry.
 By the end of my trip I could speak Spanish without having to think about it too much, which was the coolest thing.
 Uncle Loui’s Cafe in Duluth, Minn. is a breakfast joint notorious for its long line of college customers on Sunday mornings.
Abigail serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports.
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