After I sold my place in Honolulu, I was able to stay at a friends place until it was time for me to fly out. I really had no idea of when or even if I would be returning. I have to say, that during that time I ran around eating all my favorite Hawaiian foods one more last time. By Hawaiian, I mean the all the various ethnic foods which have a special spin from being in Hawaii. When I passed through Texas, my friend there took me out for a Texican dinner. In Texas, they call it Mexican food, but it is not. That doesn’t distract how much I love Texican food.
As I traveled out side the US I found that each city I lived in offered me foods, which are special, and I miss after I pass on.
When I arrived in Cuenca Ecuador, I was so tired, I went a half a block from my Airbnb and (wait for it) ate Mexican food. Early the next morning I was woken by the squeaking of a wheelbarrow. Looking out my window, I saw a woman in indigenous dress pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with the biggest strawberries, artfully arrayed, which I had ever seen.
It wasn’t long before I located the farmers markets and learned which ones were best for buying what product. I even bought and cooked yucca for the first time. Produce was very inexpensive, but the main thing I miss from there is the potatoes. I have never had potatoes which tasted so good. As soon as I got that first big haul of vegetables home I made the first of many soups. So far, no matter where I have lived, I have made a lot of soups.
The beef and pork is another thing I miss from Ecuador. It isn’t just that it is affordable, it is that it tasted so good. The beef was grass feed and the bacon was thick and meaty. I bought all my meat at the supermercado, since my command of Spanish wasn’t up to dealing with the butchers at the market. Chicken was expensive there, but the beef and pork was a steal.
I like to eat and drink things which are locally produced as often as I can. My favorite local drink was Zhumir. It is a cane alcohol, which smelt of molasses. The beer and wine, was good and cheap, but not something I dream about, as I do the Zhumir.
Being from Hawaii, where mangos are quite expensive, I went crazy in Cuenca where you can buy a whole bag of mangos for one US dollar. Eventually I got sick of mangos and stopped eating them until I got to Mexico.
One of my favorite things to do in Cuenca, was to walk down to the main plaza and have ice cream. Sometimes I would buy it from the store, but other times from street vendors. I learned that not everything that looked like ice cream was ice cream. (Flavored whipped cream on an ice cream cone. It was good!)
I miss the fresh bread. There were bakeries everywhere, but I had a favorite one. I bought chocolate disks from a woman at the farmers market. I would slice open a bread roll and fill it with butter and chocolate disks, before nuking it. Heaven! In Hawaii I always had to make my own bread, because I couldn’t find what I wanted in the bakeries there.
Street vendors and small shops were plentiful and had a wide array of very good inexpensive foods. There were food vendors at the big markets as well. I loved walking up to a lady standing behind a whole pig and asking for a pig lunch. I always made sure that I had 50 cents in my pocket to buy glazed peanuts when I saw a vender dashing in and out of traffic at stop lights.
I really liked the squeeze bag condiments, and thought I would miss them. I have since found that the countries I have visited have at least some of their condiments in squeeze bags.
When I think of Cuenca I really miss the street food, and that little restaurant where I had the best fondue I have ever had. In the middle of the Andes mountains, go figure.
I really hated leaving Ecuador, but my visa ran out the day I left. It is a good thing I wasn’t delayed, or I might have had to pay a fine. After a quick stop in Texas for some more Texican food, I headed down to Guanajuato, Mexico, only to fall in love with real Mexican food.
I had only eaten mole once in my life. There was a small restaurants on the ground floor of one of the old mansions in Galveston. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was reputed to have the best Mexican food in Texas. The lady who ran it didn’t have a liqueur license, but she would let you bring in your cold beer and she would put it into the kitchen fridge and serve it to you with your meal. I remember loving that mole.
When I went shopping in Guanajuato I saw a huge bowl of mole in the deli section of the supermarket. I bought a container, which seemed to hold about enough for a batch of roasted chicken, and brought it home. I had no idea what to do with it. After a while on the internet, I had the general idea. I had to mix the mole with water, and cook it down. I think I used four or five times as much water as mole. I filled up the mole container with water, and poured it in. As it cooked down I just kept adding water, so by the time it was finished it was well cooked and it was the thickness of a heavy gravy. I was hard pressed to use it all. If I ever come across that sort of mole again, I will buy the smallest container I can.
The first time I had ever had tres leches cake was from a grocery store, in Corpus Christy, Texas, late one night after I had been working a marine survey job. I was glad in Mexico, that I could have the cake any time I wanted it. There was a nice little bakery down the street from my apartment, which always had it. I was so sad one day when I saw that the bakery was gone and was replaced by a takeout lunch spot.
As i travel, one of my favorite things to do is try out some of the local snack foods. In Guanajuato I found big inexpensive bags of flavored peanuts. In Mexico, they had American candy bars, but they were cheaper than in the US and they were different. I don’t like Milky Ways in the US, but the ones I got in Mexico were really good. The bars were smaller and thinner, so that the ratio between chocolate and filling was more to my liking. American candy bars aside, I went out of my way to eat as many of the local candies as I could find.
I had fallen in love with the candied peanuts I bought from street vendors in Cuenca, but wasn’t able to find any vendors in Guanajuato. I did find some at the candy store, but they were nowhere as good as the ones from the street vendors.
One of the more interesting candies is Tamarin paste. It comes in a nice little decretive pot with a small paddle, which you use to eat the paste. I am still not sure if I like it or not. Something that I love, but was so expensive in Hawaii, is Nutella. I have found the price on Nutella to be shockingly low outside the US. Many a morning I breakfasted on crusty local bread and Nutella.
In Guanajuato, I didn’t have to go to a bakery for good bread. The supermarket had a great bakery. The bread was so cheap, that I suspect that bread is price controlled, or maybe even government subsidized in Mexico. The cheap ones were the standard bread rolls. The rest of the bakery’s offerings were much more costly. But even at that, they prices were much lower than in the US. I fell in love with the chocolate mice. They were a very moist brownies shaped like mice.
So far, every country I have lived in over the past year has had good coffee, at a good price. I think I might have ticked off an old friend, when I informed him that I would not check a bag, just to bring him lots of coffee beans. I bought some really cheap coffee here in Medellin. I was like, Damned this is good coffee. Then I stopped and thought, oh Colombia!
As anyone who follows my blog will know, I save a lot of money by cooking most of my meals in the Airbnbs. I learned that bullion cubes were an international product, when my ex and I were traveling in Greece. I have this problem where my blood doesn’t retain sodium. I found this out in boot-camp where the kitchen staff didn’t salt the food, there were no salt shakers on the tables, and we were told to drink Gatorade, so that we wouldn’t get … get this … WATER POISONING! I can’t drink drinks with sugar, even the lower amounts that Gatorade touts, so I wasn’t drinking that stuff. I began suffering from a really bad case of edema. The Coast Guard blamed that on my shots. Having an issue with sodium, usually isn’t a problem in the US, barring over zealous health fiends who think salt is bad for healthy young people with low blood pressure. For a while, I had no more trouble since US foods are so over salted, but in Greece, the food was so flavorful I never thought about salting it. I combated that round of edema by eating bullion cubes we found in a small market on Crete.
In the countries I have traveled in, I have been able to find the bullion cubes even when I don’t speak the langrage at all. Regardless of the language the packets look pretty much the same. In Poland, I was helped by the brand being the same one I used in the US.
I was lucky enough with the Airbnb to have an oven, in Mexico. A lot of Airbnbs don’t have them. I was able to roast a lot of chicken. The chicken was so tasty. All over town men stand on the sidewalk with igloo coolers at their feet. They are selling Cheese. It is my favorite cheese ever. The cheese here in Colombia isn’t anywhere near as good. I can however buy a nice selection of European cheeses in the larger market.
I bought a lot of food off the street. You would be surprised at all the things you can buy from street vendors. The photos in the slide show below, show a lot of the street food I bought and consumed. Often my day was planned around visiting my favorite vendors.
The Airbnb I was staying out was one of three apartments one on top of the other, owned by the same folks. For the first few weeks of my stay, my upstairs neighbor was an Irish girl. When she left, she left me all her food. She was a bit of a hippy chick, so I had to find was of using some of the odder foods she had given me. A lot of the stuff went into a bread pudding, including the almond milk. I had made the mistake of buying hotdog buns at the market. They were too soft for my taste, but they made a particularly good bread pudding.
Beer was cheap in Mexico, and very good beer at that. Beers that cost $8.00 a glass in an American restaurant, cost $3.00 a six pack. One of the ways I save money is to buy wine in boxes. I fell in love with the harsh box wines in Italy when I was at the University of Parma. I wasn’t buying wine in Mexico, because it was California wine. Finally the supermarket was having a big wine sale, so I broke down and bought some. When I read the back of the box, I realized that “California” was a brand name for a mix of Mexican, Chilean, and Argentinian wines.
After leaving Mexico, it took me a while to get over all the food I was missing. While I was in Honolulu, my friend there, turned me on to smoothies made with avocados for the creamy element. I had never been able to have smoothies because bananas make me quite sick, despite how much I love them. After hanging out with my friends in Honolulu, I headed back to the mainland. I had to spend some time in Indianapolis for business, where I ate mainly in my hotel room, with my food being delivered. Except for one lunch when my real estate agent took me out for tea. That was nice, but since it was business, there are no photos. In Houston I hung out with my friend there, who surprised me with a cooking class.
It was with a heavy heart that I headed off to Warsaw, going ever further away from my beloved Mexican (not Texican) food. I had no idea of the feast that awaited me in Warsaw. I am going to keep my remarks short, and let the captions in the slide show tell the story for the most part.
I will say that I picked a great location to live. There were so many things within an easy walk of my apartment; a upscale package store, a gourmet ice cream shop, a world class Italian restaurant, a beer garden, and a surprisingly well stocked convenience store. I often walked round trip nine miles to the other side of town to eat with my friend. That was the one thing that made Warsaw a really nice place to stay, having a friend to hang out with.
I have to be honest, by the time I had been in Warsaw for three months, I was tired of the food and of the city. That is hard to believe, isn’t it? I was looking forward to getting to Medellin and seeing what the food was like here. But first it was back to Texas for my periodical Texican food fix. I guess I really should take more photos of my more mundane food in the US, for contrast to my nomad food. The only food related photos I have from this stay was the evidence of the dog slobber on around my bowl, which had had cheese in it.
When I got to Medellin I was disappointed that the traffic, made it where I didn’t like to walk around town. Also, it just isn’t a very photogenic city. However the food did not let me down. Neither did the people. The folks here have to be about the nicest people in the world. I really lucked out that my apartment has a good kitchen, and is large enough that I don’t mind spending most of my time inside. There are two good grocery stores nearby. I have been having a lot of fun cooking. For those times when I don’t want to cook, food delivery here is great and cheep.
So that is it, 365 five days of eating on the road. I can’t wait to see what food will come my way during the next year.