Today marks day 2 of my three week vacation and it could not have started better. However, since I haven’t updated my blog in awhile, I suppose I should first give a bit of background information: Brent arrived two weeks ago and has been mostly assimilating to la vida quiteña on his own during the week while I have been working. Before his arrival, I had imagined returning home from work to dinner fresh off the stove and a nice glass of wine waiting for me. While that wasn’t exactly true, I’ve appreciated the return of my cooking and adventure partner. We have been trying to cook more local, or at least cook what the locals like to eat.
This includes Brent’s favorite, locro de papa (a potato soup of sorts), which we have modified to generally include these ingredients: veggie or chicken stock, cumin, chili powder, jalapeño, tomato, corn, mote (white hominy), chocho (lupin), potatoes, onions and garlic. A yummy thick soup for “chilly” Quito nights. Our favorite fruits and veggies of the moment are: camote (South American sweet potato, purple with white stripes), various types of plantains, pitahaya (dragon fruit), and the basic store bought tomatoes here that taste like your best farmer’s market heirloom variety. Another constant obsession is the chocolate because it is superior quality organic dark and it’s cheaper than Hershey’s bars.
When not cooking or eating, we are indeed adventuring. Because of Quito’s extreme altitude, I thought we would start out slowly at Parque Metropolitano, a giant park with endless trails along the northwest side of Quito. After feeling more acclimated, we decided to hike up Volcan Pichincha, which was quite the experience! After a short taxi ride to the edge of town, we climbed into a gondola that took us to the top of the TelefériQo. From there, we had about a three hour hike to the top of the volcano, which was not an easy achievement. There was not very much oxygen and the trail was at some points quite vertical. While walking along the ridgeline, probably about a half mile from the true top, I called it quits. I know that sounds weak but dang, it was cold! That and the lack of much oxygen made me a little dizzy. Thankfully we’re planning on going up with my parents again soon!
Of course after adventuring we have to eat more, so I will tell you about two fabulous dinners we’ve had in the past two weeks. On the Sunday of Brent’s first weekend, my student invited us to his home for traditional Korean food. He works for a Korean construction company that merged with an Ecuadorian company, and he, his wife and daughter have been living in Quito for the past seven months. I love hearing about their experiences as an Asian family in Latin America and I really love eating Korean food, so I am very thankfully to have Lee as a student! We ate kimchi, sweet potato noodles and vegetables, meats and vegetables, soup, and my new favorite dessert: avocado ice cream topped with espresso.
Well, I thought that was my favorite dessert but on Brent’s second weekend we went to my Iranian coworker’s house for dinner. Zubin and I started at EF around the same time last November and teach offsite at Repsol, so we see each other frequently. He and his wife Soo moved here pregnant from Iran because they want their child to grow up in a different country than their own and have a chance to get a different passport, which I think it neat given the current situation in Iran. Soo is a real jack of all trades; she cooks, can cut/style hair and is a seamstress, when not preparing for the new family addition. One of her quirks is that she has been drinking nonalcoholic beer while she is pregnant because otherwise she would miss the taste of it too much, a thought that has never occurred to me about pregnancy! She graciously slaved away all last Saturday to prepare a beautiful dinner for me and Brent. We started out with some delicious salsa and guacamole (Zubin and Soo are definitely assimilating just fine into the culture!) and cucumber yogurt dip. I think Brent and I overindulged a bit because we sadly had bigger eyes than stomachs when it was time for dinner. We still managed to eat a ton of eggplant dip (with onions, walnuts, and I’m not really sure what else), potato-rice cakes, and a celery-mint dish with delicious meat. That was after a creamy mushroom soup and a minty-yogurt drink. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat any more, I found myself staring at dessert! Soo prepared some delicious spiced tea and vanilla banana custard that I am waiting for the perfect day to recreate.
I am so grateful for my eclectic coworkers and students and I have no idea how I am ever going to cook for them in reciprocity because my range of cooking skills is not that diverse! Brent and I were amazed at our locro de papa and I can assure you that that is extremely basic in the eyes of both the Koreans and the Iranians.
This weekend, Brent and I prepared for my parents’ Saturday night arrival. During the day we ran in Parque Carolina with my teacher friends from Colegio Americano, Lauren and Rita. After cleaning and cooking, we watched the Lone Survivor (also from the pirated DVD shop, still guilty) and woke up to my 2am alarm (my parents’ plane was delayed). My excitement peaked when I heard my parents’ voices outside my house and immediately opened the gate to run and jump on them.
After a short night of sleep, we all awoke today to stuff our faces with omelets, pancakes and yummy coffee at Magic Bean and then explore around Old Town. We climbed up the spiral staircase to the top of the clock tower in La Basilica (maybe one of my favorite tourist spots) and throughout, to Plaza Grande and La Compañia, the favorite church of the quiteños. We ended our excursion at my favorite Cevicheria Siete Mares with encebollado, corvina a la plancha and cazuela de pescado. Nom nom nom.
A few other highlights from the last few weeks:
– The Botanical Garden in Parque Carolina with Brent
– A bittersweet last English class with my student Maria, a badass lawyer who works for the Agencia Nacional Postal and created zip codes just a few years ago!
– Valentine’s margaritas and tacos
– The Quito Observatory, the oldest observatory in Latin America
– Quito mayoral elections, which has resulted in three days of ley seca (dry law) and beer rationing at home.
Up next: Mitad del Mundo with the family, a hike in Metropolitano and perhaps the Guyasamin museum if its opens.