Oysters and Guinea Pigs

I arrived home safely from Ecuador last night!

To call the trip amazing would be an understatement. It was truly a life-changing adventure that has forever shifted my perspective. I know I will treasure the memories and friendships made over the past week in Ecuador for the rest of my life.

So why did I go to South America? I’m glad you asked! You can read more about how this very special trip came to be in this post.

You can also expect a detailed recap of the trip later this week…but because my brain has yet to process all of the incredible things I experienced, I need a few days to gather my thoughts and come up with something that is actually coherent and logical, as opposed to a giant photo dump with captions like “!?!?!?!!! 🙂  😉 !!!!”.

Because truly, there is nothing worse than reading a caption that consists entirely of punctuation marks and emoticons.

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a sneak peek of my very favorite photo from the trip.

My heart does a super-happy cartwheel every time I look at this photo. (It's actually more of a sommersault/cartwheel combo as my heart is not very coordinated. Yet what it's lacking in gracefulness and balance, it makes up for in enthusiasm.)

My heart does a super-happy cartwheel every time I look at this photo. (It’s actually more of a sommersault/cartwheel combo as my heart is not very coordinated. Yet what it’s lacking in gracefulness and balance, it makes up for in enthusiasm.)

The kids at this school took turns bombarding each of us with giant group hugs. It may have been the most precious thing ever.

But again, until my heart stops doing cartwheeel-sommersaults long enough for me to write something that is at least somewhat articulate about my overall experience, I’m going to write about something a little bit lighter.

Food, to be exact.

I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I’ll try anything once, which has created a patchwork quilt of culinary experiences that ranges from eating cow intestines in Tijuana, trying fish flavored gelatin in Norway and eating raw sea urchin at a sushi bar in Omaha.

In addition to this, I’m also not a very picky eater. I like just about everything and often brag that there is only one food on the planet that I don’t like.

That food is oysters.

Granted, I’ve only tried them once, and they were simply wrapped in foil and roasted over a fire. I suspect that if I were to try oysters that had been prepared differently, I might actually enjoy them. (Read: Fancy oyster shooters like the ones that Vicki from the Real Housewives of Orange County had catered for her dinner party in that one episode where Gretchen has too much to drink and ends up hitting on somebody’s son.)

I probably shouldn’t admit that I have that episode memorized by heart.

Anyway, I may or may not have bragged that “There is only one food in the world that I don’t like. Oysters!” as we sat down to enjoy a guinea pig lunch that one of the communities in Ecuador had prepared for us.

Yes, you read me right. Guinea Pig.

Guinea Pig

I was hoping it would be like Red Lobster where you get to pick the one you’re going to eat out of a tank. But, alas, they had already been prepared.

Photo by picto:graphic

Cuy (cooked guinea pig) is a traditional Ecuadorian dish that is served at very special occasions, such as weddings. The fact that the community we visited had prepared such a delicacy for us was a huge compliment. They were giving us their very best.

I was thrilled as I had heard all about the Guinea Pig dish, and had been hoping to try it before leaving South America. The fact that we would be served Cuy at lunch was so exciting to me, I was practically bouncing up and down as I waited for the tasty rodent treat to arrive.


Photo by makro78

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I dug right in.

Katrina eating a guine pig

That poor little piggy never had a chance…

I wanted to like it.

Like, really wanted to like it.

Unfortunately, it tasted just like I had imagined a rodent would taste. Similar to a piece of extremely gamey meat mixed with super-fishy seafood. Cuy is extremely popular in Ecuador and all of the locals love it, which leads me to believe it is an acquired taste.

I imagine if an Ecuadorian came to visit in the United States, they would have a similar reaction to our beloved tuna fish sandwich. They’d probably be all “Umm…wait a second. That shredded fish just came out of a really sketchy looking can. And then you mixed it with mayonnaise and pickles?!? I’m not so sure about this…”, and then we’d be all “But it’s so delicious!”, and then they’d politely take two bites before giving up and filling up on potato chips.

While the cuy is probably something I’ll never try again, I did my best to eat it out of gratefulness.

You see, prior to eating the generous lunch they had prepared for us, we had toured an early stimulation center for children under the age of five. We were seated around a table that had been assembled with a few stools that had four large pieces of plywood precariously balanced over the top. The teacher informed us the community needed money to provide furniture that was not only functional, but also safe for the children who used this classroom.

Kids in their classroom in Ecuador

Adorable kids from the community in their classroom.

This poverty-stricken community had pooled their money and resources to honor us with their very best — a celebratory meal featuring the national delicacy. They easily could have put that money towards a table for the classroom, but instead, chose to honor us by sharing a very special meal.

This truly summarizes the people of Ecuador. Warm, hospitable, and generous beyond belief. The cuy I ate that day may not have agreed with my taste buds, but it was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever taken part in.

So, while I now must admit there are now two foods I’m not too fond of, I feel very lucky to have eaten that rodent.

Because that rodent was prepared with love.

(Talk about sentences you never thought you would type.)

Let’s just say I’ll never look at a pet guinea pig the same way again. In a good way.

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In other news….the winner of the Best Book Ever Giveaway is commenter #4, Kelly! Congratulations Kelly! I’ll be contacting you with further details 🙂

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