The home next door is a buzzing hive of activity. I hope I can give you some idea in words of what it was like this morning.
By the time I arrived this morning at 9:00AM to learn how to cook one of the Ecuadorian favorite dishes, Viche, the family had already been up and going since 4:00 AM.
First the fishermen of the family left. Then one of the sisters left for her job at the medical office. Then it was time for the grandmother to get up to start breakfast for the family of coffee, empanadas and tortillas. Then another sister took the handicapped five year old, Sanessa to her physical therapy in town by bus an hour away.. Another sister washed all the family’s laundry by hand as was hanging it up on several lines to dry. (This is laundry for 8 adults and two teens and a handicapped child of 5. Think a LOT of laundry by hand.) Another sister fed the chickens and the roosters and the dogs and the birds in the various cages hanging here and there and was then started washing the breakfast dishes.
Thats when I arrived.
While the 5 dogs and one new puppy barked and ran around after each other in the yard and through the house, the 5 roosters paraded in and out of the kitchen crowing their hearts out, the birds chirped cheerfully in their cages, deliveries of this or that were made at the gate on motorcycle, truck, bike and push cart and the two teens played violent shooter video games in the room next door, I began to chop.
First the grandmother Doma would demonstrate with the words, “Marianita. (they all call me Marianita) Mire.” or in English, “Mary Anne. Watch.” She would chop an item to go into the soup showing me exactly what she wanted and then would hand me the knife and watch me do it once.
Then she would say, “Bueno.” or “Good.” and then move on to another thing that had to be done for the Viche. I would say, “I’ll do the rest.” Each time I was finished with an item, I would sing out, “Listo!” or “Done!” and I was handed another ingredient to wash so she could show me what to do. Each ingredient was demonstrated in turn and then I would chop it exactly the same as she did.
When she needed something or ran out of an item and needed more, she would yell out, “Ninos!” to the teens in the room next to the kitchen. They would get up immediately (without attitude) and come into the kitchen saying, “SI?” Doma would inform them she needed more water or to reach a pot up high or help with the burners or more chifles (platoon chips) or more this or that and they would cheerfully go get whatever it was and then go back to their video game.
When I commented how was it that these teens came to help without any “attitude”, Doma raised her fist and said, “Practico.” or “Practice.” And I had the feeling no one wanted to cross Doma as she was the main cook in the family!
When I commented that the entire home seemed to revolve around the kitchen, Doma smiled a wide proud smile and said, “Si. Es verdad. Es la case. Asi es.” “Yes. It’s true. That’s the home. It’s true.” For some reason at that moment, I felt like crying.
It seems that I was finally understanding the true meaning of “Many hands make light work.” All at the same time, every person there did what needed to be done at that moment, working around each other, taking care of business including running the Tienda, the family store next door, all with a remarkably cheerful attitude.
If you had looked in from the outside, in one sense it was absolute chaos. In another view, it was a buzzing hive, a efficient ballet of hard working people taking care of each other, each doing what they do in daily Ecuadorian family life.
For me at different moments, there was a wonder and magic to it all. I felt tremendous gratitude and grace to be a “gringo” who had been welcomed into this family’s hearts, their home and their kitchen.
So back to Viche. I will list the ingredients in this amazing and nutritious soup as best I can remember.
1 huge Yucca root, large bunch of fresh string beans cut tiny, 5 lbs of lima beans, water, two onions, 1 green pepper, 5 plantain bananas, a huge amount of garlic, each garlic clove was opened and peeled by hand and then all that we peeled eventually made 2 cups of pureed garlic, 4 carrots, 2 purple color tubers I cannot remember the name of, 1 pound of fresh peanut butter mixed in the blender with milk and poured into the soup, grated yucca and peanut butter mixed with spicy oil to make into meatball shapes the size of large marbles and then dropped into the soup, 5 pounds of fresh squid cooked and then chopped tiny, 4 pounds of shrimp cleaned and deveined and cooked, salt, 6 choclo which is a type of corn you cut into large chunks on the cob and throw it in, fresh cilantro… and… I think that may be it.
I was so busy chopping and learning, my hands were always wet with something I couldn’t write or get step by step photos. I was only able to sneak a photo of the soup bubbling in the huge pot at the very end which really doesn’t do this dish the justice that it deserves with all this nutritious stuff bubbling underneath but it will have to do.
This was soup that eventually fed the 10 hefty men working the construction on the building next door, the entire family of 10, plus me and two other guests. After the workers were served and left, we ate both the Viche and the Cebiche which we had also made this morning. I squeezed 50 limes, peeled and deveined I don’t know how many pounds of shrimp, cut onions, squeezed mustard and ketchup and chopped cilantro for that?!
Then sat for 2 hours talking and then peeled 6 pounds of beans for another hour for tomorrows dish, a bean soup.
I had to go home and take a siesta myself during the heat of the afternoon after all that!
Below is the pot of finished Viche right before serving into bowls. It really doesnt do this dish justice but it’s the best I could do today. Viche tastes vaguely of peanut butter and fresh shrimp and vegetables. It’s really yummy and very different from any dish served anywhere in the US.
I got one more photo in the kitchen this morning of how cilantro comes in a bunch here. I wanted you to see it because I think it’s so pretty how they wrap it for sale.
I will post other beautiful moments here in Ecuador in coming posts. Right now, I’m also working on posts that will talk about Americans living in Ecuador and how they adjust to living in this country, the many interesting attractions in Ecuador and more information on South America. So please stay tuned!
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