Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food Issues

Baltimore is Full of Flowers

As a child, my travel memories were often tied up with the food experiences we had, and of course, food memories still identify places I have visited and stayed in. I have been enjoying my favourite foods in Baltimore this past week. The 'Ambassador' has the best Indian food in town, and a lovely outside terrace location. I have never tried Indian food in Ecuador, in fact I have not ever tried to look for Indian food; I am far more interested in eating local Ecuadorian fare, so other than 'shwarma', which is very popular in our neighbourhood around Republica del Salvador, and one or two sushi dinners (there is a restaurant called 'Sushi' and another named 'Noe', both excellent!) I have not been particularly adventuresome. There is one Ecuadorian restaurant that I know of in Baltimore, and we have had several student dinners there (months after the intersession course we run), but the food is not quite right, and unfortunately often inedible.

I do miss a good hamburger in Quito, so hamburgers are a must in Baltimore, and Julien and I had juicy thick mouthwatering cheeseburgers ( with blue cheese) at Miss Shirley's (my daughter Tara's favourite diner, so we never miss it when she is in town) one day. The best hamburger joint in Quito is supposed to be 'Hamburgers Rusty' on Shyris,; we found 'Rusty' taking orders when we visited last week, but the hamburgers were not to my taste. Eric and I tried multitiered burgers at a place in the Mariscal, where layers can be pork, beef, chicken and other, and hamburgers come in one, two, four, or more layers; I had also heard an Eucadorian rave about them, but they were not quite right either. I do believe that hamburgers are a meal uniquely American, and it makes no sense to order it anywhere else.

Crabcakes (uniquely Baltimorean) were on the menu at 7West, a new bistro near my office, where I met with my office partner Sharon. I am not sure I would even try crabcakes in Quito, although there are many good shrimp dishes (my favourite is ceviche) and seafood restaurants. 7West serves hearty tapas dishes, but the best tapas place in Baltimore is Teatro Tapas next to the Charles Theatre, where I have many memories of jugs of sangria and tasty dishes and where Emily and I celebrated my last night in Baltimore. I rarely drink wine in Ecuador; because of the import tax, wine is horribly overpriced. I took advantage of wonderful wine in Baltimore, reasonably priced and always a good addition to a meal. Wine is not part of the Ecuadorian tradition; they love their beer and chicha in places (it is offered with a meal of cuy, or guinea pig), and their freshly squeezed juices are to die for, but wine is not a customary addition to a meal. I do not believe any grapes are grown for wine in Ecuador, which seems surprising, because I am sure the topography and the weather could work for wine in places, but I may be wrong.

I am addicted to coffee, and although Ecuador grows great coffee, again there is no true coffee tradition and if coffee is offered it is either powdered Nescafe (which is not really coffee) or slowly dripped coffee that tastes a little overcooked or over roasted. There are a few food coffee shops in Quito, but none are close to my home or along the routes I ordinarily take, so I drink what is available, but always miss a glorious cup of espresso. Of course, I enjoyed coffee at Starbucks at locations along every route I took in Baltimore. I was amazed how many baristas remembered me and my particular drink! I walked the 20 minutes to the Starbucks on St Pauls every morning, but entered every familiar coffee shop I walked by to stock up on caffeine before returning to Quito. I drank alot of tea at Emily's house, and plan to continue that habit in Quito (where tea is inexpensive) , at least for the next few months.

I wondered what foods I ought to buy to bring back to Quito, and the only thing I absolutely cannot find at Megamaxi is real Maple Syrup, so Emily gave me a bottle, which I wrapped in many layers of Ziplock bags, and I hope it will survive the trip without running all over my clothes. Eric asked for baking soda, which I am told is in the cleaning section of Megamaxi or Supermaxi and not in the baking section, but I have never seen it, and always use baking powder instead, without destroying the recipe.

In truth, almost every kind of food is available in Quito, so I did not feel compelled to buy any special foods in Baltimore. If Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice cream could survive the trip, it would surely be in my suitcase tomorrow. I look forward to all the wonderful fruits and vegetables to choose from when I return to Quito, and I want to be more adventuresome in my cooking and try all the dishes I have not tasted....and I have only a few weeks to try them all. I am in the habit of cooking at home in Quito, partly because I enjoy cooking anyway, but I also believed that cooking myself would prevent negative food experiences, but perhaps I ought to widen my horizons and try new things.

Returning to Quito in relative good health (I have restrictions but they are not excessive) gives me new opportunities to explore more, see more, experience more; I am very excited to be flying back tomorrow!

View Next Door!

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