An Iron Stomach: Dining in the Galápagos

Welcome to the final week of my Galápagos Adventures series. Thank you for tagging along with me the past few weeks as I recounted my tales from a summer in the Galápagos. I had such a great time looking through my pictures and sharing these stories with you! We’re not quite finished yet, because I want to tell you all about dining in the Galápagos. As a food studies minor, I spend a good amount of time thinking deeply about food, recipes and symbolism. Food is something that brings us together and often serves as a medium for our identity and stories (that is kind of the whole point of this blog!). Sharing meals with my friends brought us so much closer and my friend Luke’s pizza topping selections (ham and pineapple, a travesty) is what launched my storytelling in the Galápagos (you know I have some strong feelings about ham). I think a lot of my dining experiences represent exploration and trying new things as I tried to figure out my place in the world. I still have not really figured out the symbolism of some of the things I ate in the Galápagos, but my professors said several times that I should be dead so do what you can with that.


Looking back through my journal, I think I documented everything I ate that summer. I did not want to forget anything, so I wrote it all down. The main takeaways for me rereading the journal are that I am cheap, I eat some questionable things and I get very excited over juice (who would’ve thought?). The first day in Ecuador, I ate cow stomach at lunch (not that bad), had dinner for $1.40 (can you imagine?) and drank guava juice! Most of you probably know that I have never taken Spanish and that presented some difficulties when it came to communicating in Ecuador and the Galápagos. I studied Swahili (and absolutely love the language) but it unfortunately never came in handy while I was studying abroad. I would sometimes accidentally start speaking Swahili and that resulted in many people looking at me like I was crazy (when you want juice and you ask for maji ya matunda, that happens). I tried to learn some staples. Pollo and arroz are the two that really got me through the summer; I probably would have starved if I could not have said that I wanted chicken and rice. Nonetheless, I still wanted to try new things and have new experiences. That is exactly what I did, but sometimes it was quite an adventure.

The rooster who was trying to ruin my life

When I met my host family, I was extremely nervous. I, an only child, now had five siblings. I was the tallest person in my family, which none of my friends believed until I showed them pictures because I stand at a towering 5’2”. They did not really speak English and you know I did not speak Spanish. It was a struggle, but we made it work. It was usually just me and my host mama in the mornings. I was perpetually exhausted, mainly because there was a rooster who lived outside my window and I am convinced his mission was to ruin my life. I averaged about three hours of sleep at night because he would start screaming very early in the morning. My host mama would feed me breakfast at 6:30 am even though my class started at 10 am. I have a crippling caffeine addiction and was essentially cut-off cold turkey from my morning cup of coffee when I got to the Galápagos. Without my caffeine fix, I would stagger out of my room, we would eat breakfast and just stare at each other. It was great, not awkward at all. Breakfast was always an adventure. One morning, I was eating watermelon when ants started crawling out of my watermelon. They then proceeded to crawl up my glass of juice and then up my hands and arms. I tried to squish them and eat/drink around them but I definitely ate ants that morning. I have never been able to look at watermelon the same way again.


Me and my host parents (I told you I was the tallest)


I wish that was the only fruit story I had. It is not. My host family had a farm that they took me to one day. As someone who loves gardening and agriculture, I was in heaven. I was so excited to be at the farm and was just trying to take it all in.

Living my best life at the farm
Blackberries fresh from ground. I put those in my body!!

I was walking with my host dad and sister and they kept picking up blackberries off the ground. They would hold out their hand to me and I would just nod like “yeah, look at that.” Then they would say, “eat it.” Um, excuse me? You just picked that up off the ground. I took them, blew on them like that would help me and then ate them. They did that a lot. There was a lot of passion fruit at the farm and I went with one of my other sisters to collect passion fruit to take back to the house. How do you collect passion fruit? You pick up the ones that have fallen on the ground and there you go. I had never actually had a passion fruit fresh from the ground and my host family wanted me to have that experience. I did not know how to eat it so I tried to ask and they just motioned to take a bite. SO I DID BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THEY TOLD ME TO DO. It was not my favorite but they were just watching me so I continued gnawing on this passion fruit. I ate half of it and just could not do it anymore. As I was walking, while no one was looking, I chucked it back into the woods. We had lunch as a class during one of our scheduled activities and were served passion fruit. I felt like I was a passion fruit expert at that point. I am sure no one else there had eaten fresh passion fruit like me. I was sitting near some of our professors and I noticed that they cut the passion fruit and ate the inside. I genuinely asked them, “You aren’t going to eat the outside?” They looked at me with a puzzled look and responded, “The rind? No, we’re not going to eat the rind.” I told them about my experience at the farm, eating all the fruit off the ground and apparently the rind of passion fruit. They looked concerned and just said: “How are you alive right now? You must have an iron stomach because anyone else would have gotten seriously ill.” It was probably all that trash juice that saved me (just kidding that had not happened yet)!



I guess even tortoises do not eat the rind.

The cat who would always try to eat my rice.

I didn’t exclusively eat fruit off the ground, I ate a lot of cooked foods too. I ate so much rice that summer. I had it twice a day, every day. All I could think about was those birds who eat too much rice and explode (I was not ready to accept death by rice consumption). My friends and I ate lunch together every day at the comida stands across the street from the school. We each had our favorite and it was very contentious (Comida 1 vs. everybody). The highlight of lunch for me every day was not the quality time I got to spend with my friends (sorry, y’all), it was the cat who would come sit near me and try to eat my rice. My cat Mercy loves her carbs (she could probably have a post dedicated entirely to the food she has stolen) so this cat reminded me of home and always made my day. My friends and I did bond a lot over our lunches, though. We shared just about everything. One of us would get a drink and then just pass it down the line so we could all try it (all the germs, ugh!! That would never happen now!) I knew my buddy Andrew and I were going to be friends for life when he broke off a piece of his cookie and gave it to me; that is real friendship right there.


Eating lunch at the comida stands across from the school.
The lettuce I ate without asking questions.

You might be curious to know if there were any foods that I missed while in the Galápagos. Yes. I missed vegetables and Cheetos. It was not safe to drink the tap water on the Islands (we could not even open our mouths in the shower and our friend Nico can definitely tell you why). At our pre-departure meeting, we were told to avoid fresh vegetables since it would be difficult to wash them. My best friend and my mom always hate it when I say that I crave lettuce and cucumbers because that is something a rabbit craves, but I do (Bailey actually started tearing off pieces of lettuce and handing it to me one day. I did not think anything of it and just ate the ripped off pieces of lettuce). By day two, I was missing lettuce and cucumbers something fierce. I once walked by half a cucumber in a trash can on my way to school and actually stopped. I really thought about eating it out of the trash can, but ultimately decided that would not be a smart thing to do (even though after eating all that fruit off the ground, I probably would have been fine). One night, my host family gave me lettuce. I cried tears of joy. I do not care how that lettuce was washed; I was not asking questions. I was dancing and eating my head of lettuce like it was the greatest day of my life. I also started craving Cheetos and the Galápagos is not a place where you can just waltz in a store and pick up your favorite snacks. There was one store that catered to tourists and insanely marked up the prices on items. One day, Luke broke and bought the $7 bag of pretzels. He gave me one and it was glorious; I remember thinking: “Luke, I am so glad you are weak. This is the most delicious pretzel stick I have ever consumed.” I was not weak and was not going to give in (and they also just did not have Cheetos). I started walking around the island to find a signal to contact my mom. I managed to send her a cryptic message, “bring Cheetos.” She arrived at the airport to pick me up (she actually parked this time) with a big bag of Cheetos which I just caressed on the ride home (I was actually very sick and could not eat them; it is very possible that I had a parasite).


Look at the baby blue-footed booby! It is so ugly, but still so cute. I miss them.

On the morning I was supposed to depart from the Galápagos, I was reflecting on all of the incredible experiences that I had that summer. I was going to miss seeing sea lions and blue-footed boobies every day and the feeling of freedom I got from swimming with sea turtles. I was a little sad and then my host mama handed me my breakfast. It was a spaghetti omelet. A spaghetti omelet is probably what you are thinking, spaghetti noodles in an omelet with onions. I just did not even know what to do with this and thought, “Yeah, it is time for me to go.”

My favorite meal from the Galapagos

Once I got home and got my Cheetos and cucumber fix (and got over the spaghetti omelet incident), I got nostalgic for some of the meals I had in the Galápagos. Fried plantains, rice and over-easy eggs was hands-down my favorite meal that I would eat with my host family and is still one of my favorite things to eat. It might seem like an odd combination, but it works and it is delicious! I think about it every day. In honor of all of my Galápagos tales, I wanted to try to recreate it for you. Eating it in my apartment is not as fun as eating it on an island, but it was still tasty!


Thank you for sticking with me on this adventure! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. Stay tuned for next week for a new story (it might have something to do with zombies!). Until then, I want to hear from you! What is your favorite meal that you have had while traveling or what is something you ate that you never want to see again?

 

Fried Plantains, Rice and Over-Easy Eggs


My attempt to recreate my favorite meal from the Galapagos

Ingredients

  • ½ green plantain

  • 1 cup white rice

  • 1 egg

Procedure

  1. Chop plantain into 1-in pieces and place in air fryer. Cook for 10 minutes at 400 ℉.

  2. Prepare rice as directed (Bailey always makes the rice, so I honestly have no idea how you cook rice. That’s my bad.)

  3. In a medium frying pan, cook one egg over-easy. Be careful not to break the yolk.

Insider Tip: While you are eating your delicious meal, break the yolk of your egg and mix it with the rice. Trust me, it is so good.