In Ecuador, if you don’t have soup with lunch you are to be pitied. Lunch without soup is like a cheesesteak without provolone (that shows where my cheese allegiance lies) or pasta with no sauce or a hamburger with no bun or . . . you get the picture.
All restaurants offer the daily almuerzo (lunch). This starts with the soup, and then comes the main meal (el segundo) with some assortment of meat (not promised to be tender), rice, beans, and a fresh fruit drink. The portion isn’t always the largest. But the price is always spot on. A typical almuerzo can be found for under $3.00 a person.
The soup is often times the highlight of the meal.
Some examples of the soups are as follows: Sancocho (meat, corn, yucca, broth), Millocos (potatoes, peanut butter, broth), Bolas de Verde (balls made from green bananas with cheese inside, vegetables, broth), Sopa de Acelga (chard, potatoes, cheese crumbs on top, broth), Crema de Aguacate (Avocado cream), Crema de Cauliflor (Cauliflower cream), Crema de Harina de Haba (dried fava beans crushed into flour, potatoes, milk), Sopa de Fideos (bow tie noodles, vegetables, cheese crumbs spread on top, broth). Forget the croutons, soups here are served with popcorn.
But there was one soup that I had to say “no” and risk the scorn of all onlookers for not eating the prized soup prior to the segundo. It was Caldo de Patas soup (cow foot, mote, oregano, broth).
The large toes and ankles stared at me as if they had eyes. And I swore I could smell a musty gym feet scent exuding from the soup bowl, which everyone else continued to insist didn’t exist. I took a few sips with my face clenched and my eyes closed. But I couldn’t do it. I put down the spoon with an embarrassed smile and pushed the bowl away from me, signifying that I wasn’t going to eat it.
Before I could get my hand off of the bowl, another eager hand was already grabbing it to gobble the cow foot. Caldo de Patas is looked at as a delicacy. And it is common to suck the tough meet off of the thick toes and ankles, and spit the large bones back into the bowl with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
Yummy? Not for me.
(some extra family pictures below - not dealing with cow foot)