A trip to our local market is filled with enough clamoring sound, stunning colors and perfect ingredients to make any chef’s day. When I first visited, now countless cooking endeavors in the past, I was amazed. I had never seen food sold in such organic form as it is in Ecuador. Of course, I was well aware of the origins of many ingredients and was even fortunate enough to have been raised in a family that truly appreciates food, both for its taste and nutritional value. But this market. Wow. Everything is available, from calamari to mangoes to lentils and back again. And everything is organic. We’re very lucky with our ingredients, to say the least.
And so writing a food blog has gotten me thinking more about the infamous question of food sources. From where does our food originate? This is a question that certainly has no shortage of examination and debate, especially in recent times.
Obviously, food comes from nature in one way or another. But many ingredients have been hugely changed in form between their natural sources and the table. Think cooking, processing and packaging, not to mention that whole other subject of added flavorings and preservatives. Yum.
For many years, that often detrimental change was overlooked, or perhaps regarded as a necessary method of extending the overarching shelf life of food and more importantly, encouraging consumerism. Fast forward to more modern times. And enter clean eating, paleo diet trends, numerous studies of nutrition, the concept of superfoods, and countless other ideas about the value of food in its most natural form. The tables have turned: it is now more commonplace, trendy even, to be a healthful eater.
This brings me back to our local market. In contradiction with the emerging North Western culture of eating not only for taste, but also for health benefits, much of Ecuador is still stuck on the draw of fast food, unadorned white rice, local meat and soup, and cola.
From the start, this blew my mind. Why would anyone with the opportunity to eat such beautiful organic produce opt for French fries with a side of hot dog? Seriously? But the whys of this culture are for another post. The point is that when it comes to market shopping, everything is available, cheap ($3 watermelons year round?! 30 eggs for $3.25?!) and organic at its best.
As a food conscious person myself, I’m in my glory at the market here. Yup, I enjoy grocery shopping – when it’s done like that. And today, to the well meaning responses of shrugs and quirky looks, I took it a step further by taking photos of all the food. And I loved the experience.
I can genuinely say that I appreciate our organic ingredients and their exceptional availability. Even more fortunately, we are not impeded much by seasonal ingredients because Ecuador sits directly on the equator, thus eliminating the seasons entirely, and also conveniently boasts a wide range of growing climates. This is not to say that the locals don’t appreciate the variety and quality of the food, but rather, that their concept of it is entirely different from my own.
For me, the market sets the example of where food comes from, what it means to eat organic, and above all what it means to appreciate ingredients. Fresh, delicious ingredients are what inspire my love of cooking and creating; where better to find inspiration than at the source?