Ecuadorian Food Conundrums

I can’t say what these pelicans find when they divebomb into the water, but it’s reasonable to assume, fish.

Ah, fish. To the Polish person, a strange, mobile, underwater vegetable. Lenten Friday, can’t eat meat? Fish it is.

I love food. If I could subsist and feel good on chocolate cake and ice cream, I sure would do it.


Food’s become an issue here for me. I’m not exactly like the pelicans, who know exactly what they want, and need to be healthy, and go for it. They love fish. They need fish. They go straight for fish. It’s utterly delicious to them.

I have been eating fish, though, but unlike the pelican, I am a confused human. What I’d love go straight for, would eventually kill me. What’s up with that, human?

Speaking of instinctual animal behavior, what are all these birds doing there?
Speaking of instinctual animal behavior, what are all these birds doing there?

I love cooking and eating. After on and off vegetarianism all my adult life, I started eating meat again before a trip to Kenya last year, so I could be flexible with what my hosts offered me.

Turned out, smart move. I definitely needed to be flexible. The very first little food shack we were taken to from Nairobi, the waitress plopped before me a big, steaming pile of roast goat meat.

We filled our bellies with goat meat.

So I’ve been meat eating and generally indulging since, and the weight came and won’t come off.

I whittled it down to ovo-lacto-pescatarian before coming to Ecuador because I want to be flexible for my family and Aaron’s.

In other words, I wanted to stop eating meat, but I kept fish in there because I didn’t want to be a total pain in the ass when I came over for dinner.

My mom once treated vegetarianism like a hassle to some extent, but she’s also come around, eating less meat than before.

Aaron’s family probably doesn’t care (except for his dad’s gentle ragging on me a little), but I wanted to be accepted.

Coming to South America, I know I’m done with meat, but I thought I should stay flexible – and I like seafood anyway.

I feel differently now.

Originally my intention was to cover street food as a reporter, but I don’t think I can do that anymore.

The food here, in a word, is brown. It would be impossible to eat street food as a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, here.

A standard lunch, the biggest meal of the day, is soup followed by rice with a token salad and a big hunk of flesh protein.

White rice, beans, fried fish, token salad, fried plantain.
White rice, beans, fried fish, token salad, fried plantain.

The most well-loved protein flesh are chicken, beef, and pork, but there’s plenty of seafood here on the coast.

Usually, the fish is breaded and fried, so it’s been white rice, breaded fried fish, lentils, and the occasional token salad.

Also, Ecuadorians are indiscriminate with their salting. Their saving grace is the fresh fruit juice accompanying meals.

This monochrome diet shows in the population – I think it’s plenty fair to say that most women over 30 are overweight. Add to that a macho culture where women rarely engage in physical activity and have lots of babies (God there are a lot of babies), and you have what I see as a sad precursor to major health problems in the future.

I’m careful to be fair here – I don’t think I’m exaggerating, and it’s been showing on my body, too.

Thankfully, beach yoga at sunset, every day.

Sunset yoga at the beach, every day.

I don’t have too far to go. My best shape in recent memory was just as Aaron and I started dating. Daily yoga, and looking back, I realize that my diet was pretty much vegan. I didn’t eat any meat at the time, and milk and cheese were pretty rare, too, although I still ate eggs and butter and honey sometimes.

I love pleasing my man, cooking good food that he loves for him. So I got all domestic and started making fried chicken and pie and bacon and eggs and mashed potatoes and all kinds of stuff because he likes it, and who doesn’t?

But it’s taken its toll on my body and now I want to get back where I was not so long ago. It’s time for a change.

It’ll have to be gradual, and we’re going to have to be careful that everywhere we stay, there will be a kitchen.

The market overflows with verdant abundance.
The market overflows with verdant abundance.

I’ll have to either give up on the food reporting, or become a vegetarian-niche travel reporter.

My family and friends will just have to deal with me being vegetarian, and eventually, vegan, when I come home.

But I think for my health, it’ll be worth it.

Humans are funny. Why are we the only species chasing our own tails, arguing about what we should and shouldn’t eat to be healthy? What we are and are not meant to eat?

I’m just as confused as anyone else, and probably less informed, but I’m going to do what the pelicans do and just follow my instincts, just for myself. And for now, that means a slow process of taking it back to the basics.


  1. Linda does not like many of the foods I like, so often I make two different dinners, one for her and one for me. It’s not a big problem — I’m sure Aaron will appreciate it. John


    1. Boy that sounds like a lot of work!

      Fortunately, Aaron is very flexible where I am not in terms of dietary choices, so he’s usually okay with anything I cook.

      Physically, however, he’d agree that I would win a toe-touching contest.


      1. Linda can’t eat some foods (acidic ones, for example) and when I make pasta, I might make a white and red sauce; there are some foods that only a few people enjoy such as “heavy German sausage” for myself when I make chicken for her. Not a big deal and almost no extra work.

        I see it as way to give both of what we need without making a big deal out of it.

        Hey, you have some great photographs! Pretty cool!


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