Traditional Ecuadorian Cuisine and the Repercussions of Consumerism – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Traditional Ecuadorian Cuisine and the Repercussions of Consumerism – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Our second trip for the HECUA program was to visit the province of Manabí in the small coastal town of San Jacinto where the local economy relies on the collection of mussels. When we first arrived, we had a cooking lesson for a woman who owned the hotel where we would be spending the next couple of days. She is also a member of the local organization that works to reforest and protect the manglares (mangrove swamp) from deforestation due to the seafood industry. It is important to know that the cuisine of coastal Ecuador is very well known, and the amazing food is often peoples first talking point when you mention you have spent time on the coast. The famous coastal dishes all include some type of seafood. A very famous dish is called ceviche which is a cold soup that contains shrimp, cilantro, lime/ lemon juice, tomato, and onion. However, the vegan version contains palmito, which is the “heart” or inner core of a palm tree bud. Ceviche is often eaten with chifles, which are chips made out of plátano verde (green plantain) that is savory and not sweet. The plátano verde is another staple of many Ecuadorian dishes. It can be stuffed with cheese and put in soup, made into dough, pressed into tortillas, etc. The possibilities are truly endless. In San Jacinto we shredded plátanos verdes to make a dough that we stuffed with veggies, and then fried into a dish called corviche. A similar process is done for another coastal dish called bolon, but they are stuffed with cheese.

It is apparent that the coast of Ecuador is famous for rich and delicious food that include many different types of seafood. However, the underlying problem with people’s love for seafood in Ecuador and around the world is the skyrocketing demand it creates on small coastal towns to capture, produce, and sell their seafood products globally. One of the main reasons we went to the coast of Ecuador was to better understand the biodiversity of the manglares and the environmental damage that is occurring due to the creation of aquaculture pools to more quickly produce seafood such as shrimp and crab. The global demand of seafood is overwhelming the environmental balance of many coastal towns in Ecuador and in other countries. The classic story is that companies come to small coastal towns, buy up the land, cut down the biodiverse manglares in order to dig pools to produce seafood for the ever-increasing demand. However, as humanity clearly knows, there are always repercussions to the actions we take against nature. The manglares are vital to the maintain the biodiversity, culture, and livelihood of many people living on the coast. When the manglar is healthy and thriving, it is home to many birds looking to reproduce and to many different types of marine life such as fish, shrimp, crabs, and mussels.

Therefore, during our time on the coast we were given the opportunity to help plant manglar seeds in areas that had been destroyed by natural disaster and industrial aquaculture production. The organization was supported by the community of San Jacinto and managed by a group of young people. It was a difficult and wonderful experience to help reforest a small area of the manglar. There is a fine line between service work and a learning experience, but the organization is long standing and very capable, we were only there to provide our labor for a day. The work we did that day under the burning sun was extremely dirty. The mud of the manglar is thick and can pull you in like quick sand. Therefore, we crawled barefooted out of the boat and into the mud where we then continued to crawl and dig holes to plant the seed. The variety of manglar seeds that we were planting fall from the trees and can float down the river for roughly 45 days looking for some mud to attach to and sprout roots in. We spent a few hours planting hundreds of seeds in a small area. The work was bitter sweet because unfortunately we were told that the industries can cut down miles of the manglar in a day to create aquaculture pools, but it would take weeks to replant the same area.

The take away that the organization and the people of San Jacinto wanted us to learn was the importance of the manglar to the fragile environment, culture, and local economy. The manglares environment in an estuary, which is an area where the freshwater rivers meet the salt water ocean. Therefore, the balance of the water is very fragile and heavy rain can completely change the water balance and flood the rivers. Also, another learning opportunity was that as consumers, our buying power can have major effects on small towns all over the world just like San Jacinto. They urged us to be smarter and more educated consumers and to realize that all the foods from supermarkets have an origin in some town, in some country, and that global demand could or could not be negatively affecting the environment or livelihoods of places and people across the globe.

Megan 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

25 Comments

Filed under Megan Gonrowski, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

25 responses to “Traditional Ecuadorian Cuisine and the Repercussions of Consumerism – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Sarah Symanietz

      Megan,
      This was an inspiring article to read. Not only was my mouth watering from your explanation of the foods you were able to make, but I was drawn in by the hard work you did in the mud to plant trees. It is incredibly sad that the work you did could be destroyed so quickly. It reminds me of villages in Southeast Asia that were destroyed by climate change: “climate change also seem to show that a period of substantial rainfall, which had favored agriculture in the eastern empire, gave way to drier weather, which proved fatal to the villages of Southwest Asia” (Tignor 290). Being knowledgeable about facts concerning climate change and where our resources come from can be vital to our Earth. One important take away I have obtained from your article is to work on knowing where my food comes from and learning the impact that it has on cities such as these.
      Sarah

  1. Kyle Star

    Megan,
    Hey I really enjoyed reading your essay and learning about the agriculture in Ecuador. It is really sad that there is such a high demand in seafood and that they have to destroy the natural area’s for them to start farming these seafoods that are in such high demand. We learn a lot in the book “World’s Together, World’s Apart” by Robert Tignor that humans a long time ago probably found and discovered this way of using the natural resources to fish for these types of seafood. It’s not right that we have to change and destroy such beautiful land to please and provide for things that are in such high demand. I love how to guys helped by planting to seeds to try and grow these area’s back again. I never thought that our buying power had such an affect on places like this. Living right by an ocean my whole life you don’t really think that it is such a big deal to get seafood, but if you’re not by an ocean places like where you went are where they get there seafood from.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, and I am really glad that you could make a difference

    Kyle

  2. Grace Macor

    Hi, Megan!

    Water is so important for our food sources and environment. The importance of water if noted in many continents throughout the world. In “Worlds Together Worlds Apart,”, Tignor et al. discusses the impact of the water, specifically with the Niger River. Tignor states, “They established settlements at such places as Jenne and Goa, which eventually became large trading centers. Here, artisans smelted iron ore and wove textiles, and merchants engaged in long-distance trade” (2018, p. 193). The water in the Niger River aided as a food source and helped with trading goods, such as food. That being said, it is important to establish the importance of our natural world and utilize it without destroying it. It requires great care and balance!

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Grace

  3. Allison Einck

    Megan,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I enjoyed learning about the agriculture in Ecuador. It is important to be aware of where our food is coming from and how it can affect the environment we live in. It reminds me of the information I read in Tignor et. al. Humans overtime have taken over land and made it into farmland and cities to be able to live. I have never thought while eating shrimp and seafood how other areas of the world had to change for me to be able to eat. Your story will really make me think twice. Thank you for sharing!
    Alli

  4. Alexis McCort

    Hi Megan!
    What an awesome experience! I laughed at your comment about it being like quicksand because I actually lost one of my rubber botas in it! I thought what you said about the community and the organization was all really powerful. In our Tignor history book we are learning about religion and the “simple life” (p. 299) that many religious figures lived. This made me think about the family dynamics I witnessed when we took our field trip there. When a “simple life”, without the weight of consumerism and associated entities if lived, it is easy to argue that a society is simply happier. Thanks for sharing. I hope you are having the best time.

  5. Elijah Ortega

    Hello Megan,
    This was a very interesting read for me as growing up with Mexican heritage I too am quite familiar with the dish of ceviche. I always thought that this was a Mexican dish as it was a common food I looked for when visiting the country. But after having read this article, and done a quick google search I found that it actually originates closer to Ecuador than it does Mexico. However, with all this being said I did not realize the global demand for fish has such an impact on these manglares. I think the dish becoming a Mexican staple food as well truly shows the impact of globalization on this planet.
    Thanks for the interesting read.
    Elijah Ortega

  6. Cassandra Mahlberg

    Hi Megan! Thank you so much for continuing to share your study abroad experience with us.
    I think it is really cool that you were able to be a part of some really hands-on regrowth work in a region that seems to need help keeping up with the demands of globalization. It is so interesting to see the way the natural environment works in creating a particular market seller, like seafood compared to the way humans try to transform the land to meet demand. If the manglares are already producing such a diverse selection of potential foods, then it seems counterproductive to remove them to make it a monocrop area (or the equivalent of a monocrop for animals). It is better for the planet and for us to utilize the land as it was intended, rather than changing it when it is unnecessary. Since we have seen movements for green energy globally which typically rely on sources that are native to particular areas, then why is that concept so distant when it comes to the food industry?
    I’m so glad you were able to have a role in preserving the land in San Jacinto by planting seeds. I hope we will continue to see movements like this going forward. Thanks again!

  7. Madina Tall

    Hello Megan!
    That was a very interesting article to read. One of the biggest things that jumped out at me was the part where you said that they urged you to be smarter and more educated when buying produce. This was particularly interesting to me because it makes me think about imbalance. On a day to day basis we buy and consume goods without even thinking about the implications and repercussions of our actions. It’s sad to think that we never think another where we get our food but the places that give us our food can only think about us.

  8. Hannah Holien

    Hi Megan,
    I really enjoyed reading your post, it was great to hear your story and learn about a different culture. I always find it interesting how big of an impact water has on the world. Water sources have influenced where cities get established and food availability in that region. In “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” the authors stated, “As populations expanded and sought out locations capable of supporting larger numbers, often it was reliable water sources that determined where and how people settled” (Tignor et al., p 44). This shows just how important water has been/ is to our world today. It is clear that you saw the impact of water on the food culture in Ecuador! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    – Hannah Holien

  9. Tara Bighley

    Megan,
    It was very interesting learning about your second trip with your HECUA program. It’s always nice to read and learn about different cultures and all of the different delicacies they have, and how they contrast the types of foods that I’m used to. It sounds like your help and generosity was greatly appreciated by those who matter, and it’s a shame that it can be taken for granted and disassembled so quickly. Reading about all of the shrimp, crabs, and mussels that are commercially fished and affecting the environments leads back to one thing, and that’s consumerism. If people are willing to dig the pools and disrupt ecosystems, it’s all because there is a “need” It goes back to as far as 300 CE. in Tang China, where their economic boom and riches came from making and selling what was needed and people wanted. “Their reputations spread far and wide for the elegance of their wares, which included rich brocades (silk fabrics), fine paper, intricately printed woodblocks, unique iron casts, and exquisite porcelains” (Tignor, 2018, pg. 338). Even though the comparisons are quite different, it shows that leaders are money hungry and will do anything to get what they want, even if it means to damage the environment we are lucky enough to live in. I think it’s wonderful that there are people advocating for the culture and livelihood of the manglares.

  10. Anissa Jones

    Hi Megan!
    Great article – I loved the descriptions you gave readers on the different types of foods you ate, I would love to try some of them! It sounds like you are having a great time studying abroad. As consumers in modern America, it can be very easy to skip the thought process of how what we consume affects the earth – it seems we have become more selfish in this aspect. Everything we consume comes from somewhere, and that product may not be around forever. This is something I often think about when it comes to the use of paper – I wonder how many trees have been cut down just to supplement my own personal paper use in the past 21 years. Chapter 8 of Tignors Worlds Together, Worlds Apart talked about how in Asia, “periods of substantial rainfall, which had favored agriculture in the eastern empire, gave way to drier weather, which proved fatal to the villages of Southwest Asia” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 290). This shows how something can be very beneficial to one area, but can also be extremely detrimental to different area. We need to be more mindful of the items we consume, because I’m sure there is always a cost somewhere across the world.

  11. Hi Megan!
    What a great experience. I love hearing studying abroad stories it makes me want to get out and travel more. Seafood is my absolute favorite and it makes me sad that this is happening. I have never thought of the repercussions it could have on small towns. It is amazing that you guys got to spend a day planting seeds and learning about all of this. In Tignors “Worlds together, Worlds apart” I have learned a lot about early humans and how even then they did things that started to pollute and destroy parts of our planet, although then they didn’t realize the repercussions of their actions. I think today people overall need to be more mindful of what they are doing and how it will affect things for future generations.
    Thanks so much for sharing this experience!
    Morgan

  12. Lexie DeWall

    Megan,

    Thank you for sharing our wonderful experience in Ecuador! It sounds like you had a once in a life time experience and gained so much knowledge about a culture and environment outside of your own. It is so amazing how one trip can create such an awareness to things you mentioned like the sea food industry, and how we have an impact on that here with where we purchase our food from. “Mesoamerica had no integrating artery of giant river and its flood plan, and so it lacked the extensive resources that a state could harness for monumental ambitions” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 308). This quote helps ties the importance of the environment we are given, and to never take it for granted. Though re-planting manglar takes longer than cutting them down, we should still be grateful that this area is able to produce such amazing resources for its environment.

  13. Erin Diver

    Hello Megan,
    I really liked your article, especially your last paragraph on why we should be smarter and more knowledgeable consumers. As a society, we don’t really look for the fine details of where the food we are purchasing comes from, or how it may affect the environment which it comes from. In “World’s Together, World’s Apart,” Tignor explains how societies are easily affected because of the climate, “…show that a period of substantial rainfall, which has favored agriculture in the eastern empire, gave way to drier weather, which proved fatal to the villages of Southwest Asia on which the prosperity of the eastern Roman Empire had depended” (p. 290). I think this goes to show that changes in an environment seem to have a domino effect on the societies that depend on them. I hope in the near future, origin of our food becomes a larger topic of discussion when it comes to climate change, the environment, and our consumerist society.

  14. Elizabeth Ericson

    Megan,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I loved that you went to this area of the world due to your desire to obtain a better understanding of the biodiversity. I find that very humbling. Hearing about your experience reminded me of my experience when going to the Philippines. In the book “World Together Worlds Apart”, it is noted that during the Gupta period, people of Buddhism schools chose a simpler life (Tignor et al., 299). I feel that this is a way of life that was acquired by both the community you saw on your trip and I that witnessed on mine. I am very happy you were able to experience this opportunity. Thank you again for sharing.
    – Liz

  15. Kasey Kalthoff

    Megan,
    Sometimes it is hard to do volunteer work like this because you find yourself asking whether you really made a difference or not. I think its important to understand that any bit helps, even if it is for one day. As earth day was just last week, I have been finding myself thinking more about deforestation and animal extinction, etc. It is so sad that these manglars can be wiped out completely by industries in just hours. Sadly, this has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years. Back during the Roman Empire (300 BCE – 300 CE) Rome required a large amount of resources in order to support its cities (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 267). It is frustrating that we cannot seem to learn from our mistakes and that we still cannot balance supply and demand without damaging the environment.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Kasey K.

  16. Ashley Hamilton

    Megan,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences while being in Ecuador. I can tell you have learned a lot from studying abroad so far and you are taking that knowledge in an effort to make a change, which is wonderful. After reading this article, I realized how it is so easy for one to not fully understand the ramifications when buying certain foods from the grocery store, in this case seafood. It is so important for people to be educated and aware of the effects it can have on communities. In my world history class, we are learning about the plague that struck in the 14th century. Its effects were horrific and millions of people became malnourished and eventually starved to death as there was no food sources left that were not infected (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 404). If as a society, we do not become more aware of the effects that our actions have on certain societies, it could lead to our demise.

  17. Evan Wohlert

    Megan,
    Awesome job once again on the article. When I think of us humans as hurting nature and wildlife, I often think of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and deforestation of the rain forests. This article definitely gave me another view on how humans can hurt nature, by destroying parts of land to create aquaculture pools. While humans hurting nature is not something I see as good, it’s something that has been around for awhile. In Tignor’s, “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” he mentioned that Romans, “opened up heavily forested regions in present-day France and Germany” (p. 267). This is something I never knew about before reading his text, I thought that deforestation was a problem that has just started occurring relatively recently. I suppose that the scale in which we destroy nature today is vastly larger than it was during the Roman Empire, not to mention we have less to take than the Romans did during their time of power. Regardless of who is destroying nature, I am on the side of preserving it so that we can enjoy it and protect Earth for as long as possible. Awesome job as always Megan!
    Evan

  18. Tanner Egelkraut

    Megan,
    Thank you for sharing your experience! I understand how frustrating it must have been to think of how much time and effort it takes to plant these areas just for another company to come in a few years later and cut it all down. I am also sure that the changes in our world’s climate has negatively impacted the manglars and the animals that live in them. In our world history book Worlds Together Worlds Apart, climate change even affected the Roman Empire. “substantial rainfall, which had favored agriculture in the eastern empire, gave way to drier weather, which proved fatal to the villages of Southwest Asia” (Tignor, et al., 2018, p. 290). I wonder to what extent the locals are being affected by the deforestation. I hope that soon there can be someone who stops these corporations, but in the meantime I feel that we can all be more conservative on how much sea food we demand. Nice post!

  19. Brett Radford

    Hello thank you for sharing this post I found it very interesting. It sounds like you had a pretty awesome trip that allowed you to gain new knowledge about a culture thats not your own. That is something I would really find interesting if I could do it right now. I found it very interesting when you talked about the seafood being so needed all around the world that is affecting all there small towns on the coast, I can relate to this because I live right on the coast and I know how much people love their seafood, i just never thought that it was having such a big effect on places around the world. If we could find a way to help these small towns that are producing and giving away all there seafood and also help the environment at the same time that would be the best.

  20. Justice Bauer

    Hello Megan!

    First off, I thought it was very cool that you were able to travel to Ecuador and experience their culture. It makes sense that seafood and mussel collection are a large part of the cuisine in that area. From my own experience in purchasing seafood, I have realized that it is extremely expensive in areas of high demand, which reminded me of your post. I also was reminded of my own heritage from the West Coast. I am originally from Seattle and seafood is a very popular cuisine across the whole coast. In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart it talks about the different cultures that are affected by the different areas that they live in. Ecuador is a great example of this, because of their seafood and mussel collecting! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  21. Dawson Ness

    Megan,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is often discouraging to see the ways that humans exploit the earth and her natural resources. I am glad that you have taken out of this the learning opportunities that you have. It is sad to hear how much damage companies can do to the forests in a day that would take weeks to replant. As you said, there are many repercussions for the damage we do to nature. This made me think of our reading from Tignor where we learned of the growth and development of the Mayan civilization that controlled many forests like the one you visited. It is more hopeful for nature that “as populations declined, jungles overtook temples” and won a battle back for nature (Tignor, p.312).

  22. Shelby Olson

    Hi Megan,
    I really enjoyed reading your article and seeing your personal connection and insights from Ecuador since I was there last semester. When I first learned about the mangroves, I was almost shocked to learn what a large role they play and about how important they are in Ecuador; especially when it comes to protecting the coast from flood damage, storing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, and acting as a nursery to many species. Before being in Ecuador, I hadn’t known about the shrimp farming practices and the amount of damage they cause to the ecosystem. While I don’t eat seafood, I still think it is incredibly important that people learn where their food comes from and the process it undergoes to get to their table. I think that if people begin to learn more about their food and look to buy locally, then they will be able to develop a better and more sustainable connection to the planet and the various fragile ecosystems. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Kristeljei Baltazar

    Hello Megan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience in Ecuador! I hope to go there someday, especially after you mentioned that they have really good seafood there. I’m a seafood lover, and I didn’t know how much humanity is messing with nature by making pools and destructing the natural process of the resources Ecuador has to offer. Now that I think about it more, this is probably happening all over the world so people can make money. I was aware of human mass producing red meat and poultry, but I definitely did not know about seafood. I’m glad you mentioned how the making of these large pools does not only tamper the natural ways of them being there, but how it also affects the culture, environment, and the local economy.

    Also, thank you and to all the people you were with for planting those trees! The area you guys visited makes me think of how long that area has been providing resources for its people. It reminds me of a topic in our book called Worlds Together, Worlds Apart by Tignor et al., when he explains how people would live by the water because it’s better to plant crops so they have food and water to live. Tignor and other authors state, “In these regions, humans farmed and fed themselves by relying on intensive irrigation agriculture (Tignor et al., 2018, pg 45). If big companies from outside the country keep destructing Ecuador’s natural resources, this can cause the extinction of some of these resources…… so how are its people suppose to provide for themselves?

    Again, thank you for this awesome post!

    -Kristel

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