Posts Tagged With: clams

What I ate in Ecuador!

The pride of the coast: fresh ceviche!

The pride of the coast: fresh ceviche!

For a rather small country, Ecuador has a boatload of different cuisines.

Fried trout -- a lunch tipico!

Fried trout — a lunch tipico!

On the coast, you’re pretty much eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not kidding.

Breakfast of champions!

Fish & plantains ..Breakfast of champions!

Our most memorable meal was a croquette of plantain-encrusted fish, served to us in the middle of the ocean – complete with cold beer and hot, fresh coffee that were all handed over the bow.

Ecuadorian take-out!

Ecuadorian take-out!

Unfortunately, I can’t report on the crab and clam scene that was readily available on the coast since I don’t really eat those shellfish – and yes, I do realize that makes me a food moron. Sorry…

Pata de mule -- or mule's foot clam -- really HUGE!

Pata de Mula — or mule’s foot clam — really HUGE!

In the Sierra Highlands, it was pure vegetable heaven – with legumes, rice and greens served up in plain or extraordinary style.

Every lunch starts with sopa .. this one was lentil.

Every lunch starts with sopa .. this one was lentil…

...followed by this!

…followed by this gorgeous melange!

The most delicious meal we had was a staggering breakfast of eggs, papaya, queso, frijoles, cassava, coffee, juice, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn muffins at the family house where we stayed overnight. Homemade food is always the sweetest.cassava breakfast

But I have to say, the dazzling array in the Ambato Mercado on the last day of my travels for Heifer was some of the most beautiful food I’ve seen all year. turnip

From tree tomatoes (a taste cross between oranges and tomatoes)…Tree Tomatoes

…to cane sugar …Cane sugar…to ever-present maize…Corn Mix…it was a sensory overload…parsnips…always offered with a smile.

Fingers flying through the fava beans!

Fingers flying through the fava beans!

So … ¡Buen provecho! (good appetite)… Adios, sweet Ecuador…"ice cream"

And Happy New Year!!

Categories: Ecuador, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Love & Hope in the Mangroves.

what crab on my shoulder ?In every trip I’ve been on this extraordinary year with Heifer, there comes at least one moment when I think … I cannot believe I get to be here.

In Ecuador, that moment came as I was gliding through the mangroves off the coast of Puerto Bolivar as pink flamingoes flamed up from the overhanging trees. flamingoes

In the back of the boat, the women put down the sewing they’d been doing while bouncing through the waves on the rough ride over…sewing on water

…and fired up the big Colombian cigars they’d tucked into their hats, in preparation for getting off the boat and getting down to business of hunting crabs.

ready to crab

The cigars are for pleasure, but they also act as mosquito repellent.

In this coastal community where all life revolves around the water, hunting Ecuador’s sweet red crabs is traditionally women’s work, although the entire extended family is pretty much involved now. Children start hunting when they’re 6 or 7, and they quickly learn the drill. Using a long rebar pole, you find a hole that looks promising, insert your pole and then your arm as far as it can go, and try to get a crab to hook on.

going down for a crab

 Once it’s hooked, you pull the crab up, put it in your sack if it’s a male (you can’t take a female) and move on. boy w crab

 The first crab catch of the day is the lucky one (or the third); a good haul is 5-7 crabs; and in the boat on the way back, they’ll be strung up and go live to the market…red crab line

….where a string of 12 will bring $10 (of which the intermediary will get about half).

Rosa stringing her catch.

Rosa stringing her catch.

Crabs abound here in the mangroves – they eat the mangrove leaves and flourish – but today there are far fewer mangrove swamps (they’ve been developed into shrimp farms or dried out from industrial pollution) and far fewer crabs. beauty

So Amor y Esperanza, the 80-member group of shellfish hunters here, is out to keep their ancestral way of living, while they make the most of their daily haul – with Heifers help.

Started by the indomitable Rosa Santos, her husband and their 7 children, Amor Y Esperanza has a modern-day plan for success: to sell the seafood in a restaurant I call the No-Name Café (for obvious reasons) and to package and sell the crab/clam/calamari and fish they’ve processed in fresh & frozen packets out of a retail store next door.

The remarkable Rosa Sanchez, founder of Amor Y Esperanza.

The remarkable Rosa Santos, founder of Amor Y Esperanza.

Rosa is 57 and had a rough childhood with an abusive father, but her own family is as closely knit and tight as a pair of crab claws. She’s become an outspoken advocate for the health of the mangroves that have decreased by 70% in her lifetime, and Amor Y Esperanza has been responsible for reforesting hundreds of acres of mangroves, as well as advocating for stricter pollution controls on the banana plantations and shrimp farms that release crab-killing toxins into the ocean.

A brave little mangrove sets its roots in the ocean.

A brave little Amor Y Esperanza-planted mangrove sets its roots in the ocean.

Rosa’s dream is to achieve independence for all of Machala’s crab, clam and fishermen from the intermediaries who chomp into their profits and carry most of their loans (essentially turning the fishermen into modern-day sharecroppers). She’s already received grants from the local government to outfit AYE’s store (refrigerator, freezers, food prep tables and equipment) and help from Heifer to open the Café, but she’s hardly stopping there.

Amor Y Esperanza in action on land - where it's a spanking clean operation!

Amor Y Esperanza in action on land – where it’s a spanking clean operation!

For this woman who spends 25 days a month plucking the biggest, reddest, sweetest crabs in Ecuador out of thigh-deep mud with a cigar between her teeth and a serene smile on her face – then comes home to work to save her beloved mangroves …smiling Rosa… well, I seriously wouldn’t put any kind of alchemy beyond her.

Let's hear it for Rosa!

Let’s hear it for Rosa!

Categories: Ecuador, Environment, Food, Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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