I have never been a picky eater. When I was a small child, my parents would take my siblings and me to the Washington State coast to visit some relatives who had a house right on the ocean. Although my memories of those days are few, I do remember precariously walking out to the shore, careful not to fall on the rocks under my feet, in order to help my great uncle look for oysters to grill for dinner that night. Even as a young girl, I would happily eat those oysters with no complaint, even though some of my siblings wouldn’t touch them.
Of course I’ve had my bouts of pickiness, as most children do, but I’ve always been on the more adventurous side when it comes to my taste buds. As long as it’s edible, I’m usually willing to try it. I might be timid when it comes to doing new things that are outside my comfort zone, but I have no problems trying new food.
When talking about the most interesting food I’ve eaten while traveling, I could talk about many different things: my favorite Thai dessert- mangoes and sticky rice- or the amazing cheeses and chocolates in Germany, or the colada and gaugua de pan I had during a Dia de los Muertes celebration at one of the orphanages where I volunteered during my time in Ecuador. But none of those hold a candle to the time I sampled some cuy in a little hole in the wall joint outside of Quito.
Cuy, called guinea pig in English, is a delicacy among Ecuadorian natives. I’ll admit that I had some trepidation about eating the above specimen when it was put before me and my fellow volunteers. I prefer not being able to associate the meat that I eat with any type of animal- especially one that is commonly used as a house pet in the United States. To see the actual form of an animal was, I’ll admit, unappetizing.
However, in the name of adventure, and knowing full well that I wanted to seize every opportunity while in Ecuador, I swallowed my fear, took a big gulp of orange Fanta and dug in. Much to my surprise, I discovered that cuy was not that bad. In fact, I quite liked it. The flavor reminded me somewhat of baked chicken with a little twist. Between all of us, we finished off the body of the cuy and some of the other volunteers set to work on cutting open the head. Being quite full, I declared myself done and finished my Fanta with satisfaction because I ate something I never thought I’d ever put in my mouth. I’m so glad I stopped when I did, though, because once the head was cut open, we found the brain had been eaten away by worms. Thankfully, they hadn’t gotten to the rest of the body but the sight of them made the currently digesting cuy sit rather uncomfortably in my stomach.
Thankfully, no one picked up any disease from it but it did teach me a valuable lesson. If I ever find myself with a cooked guinea pig sitting on a plate in front of me, I will most certainly inspect the head first.