Every time we think we have experienced just about everything in Ecuador, we always find something brand new – to us, anyway.
The most recent time, it was when we went to a local restaurant with some friends to try their almuerzo, or lunch special. Typically this is a lunch that includes a soup, meat or fish, rice, a bit of salad, and a juice. Sometimes there is only one option, sometimes you may have your choice of meat, but they are always fun to try, and usually between $2.50 – $4 per person.
On this particular afternoon, the menu board listed the soup, a choice between two entrees, and the juice – listed as simply “Quaker”.
We placed our orders, and while we waited we joked about whether we were getting Quaker Oil or Transmission Fluid, and if it was oil, what weight paired nicely with seafood?
When our juice was delivered, it was an unusual tan-ish color, and tasted delicious. We never got around to asking the waitress about it, and just generally shrugged it off as one more thing about Ecuador that you should just accept and not question too closely.
However, a few weeks later Rita and I were riding around Quito when I saw a sign for another almuerzo that also listed “Quaker” as the juice. I asked our cab driver about this, and he became very excited. He loves Quaker! His wife makes it all of the time, and they have it often! It turns out it is commonly called Quaker, because the primary ingredient is oats. Apparently you can make it with either milk or juice from naranjilla (“little orange”, a small, interesting tropical fruit). The oats are cooked and blended with the liquid smoothly, so there is no particulate matter floating in it.
I’ve noticed that when you are traveling, nothing gets locals in a friendly mood faster than when you praise their local food. For example, we were staying at a place in St. Croix once, an island where there is a sharp contrast between the poor locals and wealthy visitors. The staff at our hotel was at best indifferent to us, maybe even borderline rude – until one of the waitresses saw us eating at a place in town where all of the locals eat. After that, she came to our table all smiles, and asked how we liked the food? I told her I had stopped there because I wanted to try the goat, and I was also looking for some callaloo ( a local soup), but they did not have it. Suddenly, we were her best friends, and she was telling us where to get the best goat, and that we had to come to her church after the service so she could take us to her friend who made the best callaloo on the island. Later, when I mentioned in passing how much I liked their local hot sauce, she brought us an unopened bottle to slip in our suitcases.
Our cab driver was no exception to this rule. He continued to praise the Quaker, and told us about the many other foods we should try. To top it off, while he was waiting for us as we looked around Parque Ichimbia, he ran over to a local tienda to buy a bag of Quaker oats, so he could show it to us to make sure we understood how to make the juice.
Since then, like many other “discoveries”, we now see it everywhere. In fact, we bought a carton of it at the SuperMaxi this week (pictured above). How wonderful it is that after owning a place in Ecuador for over three years, we can still be pleasantly surprised by something new!