Following the 3 days in Panama, we were all ready for fruit and a culture more integrated with their food. We found it in Ecuador, which if I’m being honest – I needed to find on the map. Quito, it’s capital, to be exact. This is country that was plagued with financial woes due to an over reliance on oil in the 80’s but that has grown to be agile, open minded, forward thinking about change. A city nestled between two mountains, running 30 miles long, it is ripe with hills, narrow bending streets, and could easily be the place the locale in the next Jason Bourne motorcycle chase.
We got a great tour guide in from Urban Adventures, Pablo, who to our great forturne had also studied in the US, so he was able to contextualize everything from politics, to food, to agriculture, to economics between the US and Ecuador. It turns out, we’re not so different.
The tour really came alive when we got to the market. Their markets are clean, indoor, operate every day with purveyors passing down their stalls from generation to generation. The pictures will do this journey better, but because Ecuador has all microclimates in one country – farms can produce product all four seasons, providing a bountiful abundance of vibrant fruits and vegetables.
One local application of how they use the blackberry is by blending it with a white milky fruit juice, you can see me slurping this down in the pictures above. As we drooled from stall to stall, then past pork, lamb, and poultry butchers, across the isles of fresh fish, including still wiggling crab, we finally make it to our lunch destination. Within the market, an oasis of whole roasted pig awaited us. To entice you to sit down, pig cracklin’ is offered – and readily accepted. It was perfectly crisped, just the right amount of chewy, and salty without dominating your tastebuds. If this is an amuse bouche in Quito – then sign me up.
For $5, each of us was served a plate of everything. This included succulent and never fatty pulled pork over Ecuadorian potatoes, orange in color from the ancho chili oil they are made with. Also on the plate, a slice of rich, creamy avocado, and a bit of lettuce. I’ll be honest, I did not make room for any lettuce.
With full bellies, and even fuller souls, we said goodbye to Pablo – who’d make our stay in Ecuador educational, but also one that was filled with heart, passion, emotion, and now – my friendship.