I’d initially thought I’d be spending Christmas with my host family, but the weekend before that I made a snap decision to join my friend Linda for a tour in the Amazon rainforest. The tour was from 26 to 29 December, but the bus left Quito at 11pm the night before – on Christmas Day.
Given the last-minute nature of my trip, I decided to head to Quito one day early, on Christmas Eve, just to make sure that I had everything I needed. That turned out to be a great decision because I did quite a bit of last-minute shopping!
I left Rosario on the 5.30am bus (the only bus that goes to Otavalo), changed bus in Otavalo and arrived in Quito at about 11am. Being the unabashed cheapskate that I am, I called Linda from Otavalo and asked if I could stay at her place for the night. So I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and most of the following week) with her, and we had so much fun.
Since she’s vegan, meal planning was a little different but it was really fun planning what to eat and going shopping at the supermarket. One of my favourite places in Quito has got to be the supermarket Supermaxi, because it’s huge and has a ton of stuff I can’t get in Otavalo! But for some reason, the granadillas they sell are very waxy and feel very light – I thought they were fake fruits the first time I saw them. Completely unlike the granadillas I see growing here in Intag! So I brought her some granadillas and mandarins from Otavalo so she could see what non-waxy granadillas were like.
That night for dinner we made vegan parmigiana and brownies – or rather, she made the parmigiana and I made the brownies. As I mentioned before, I used to bake a lot but always with the most precise measuring tools. My electronic weighing scale is probably the best baking tool I’ve invested in to date!
Here, however, I’ve been forced to make do without any weighing scales (or measuring cups, for that matter). Luckily the brownie recipe gave the ingredient list in cups and tablespoons, but I’m quite sure that the normal drinking cups aren’t a standard cup size, and I could only guess how much was “3/4 cup”. I relied on the eye test and made a lot of judgment calls (e.g. adding more and more milk because the batter seemed quite dry to me until I got a consistency that seemed about right). I don’t remember the last time I baked brownies so it was guesswork more than anything else. So I was more than a little nervous about how the brownies would turn out!
To my great relief, they turned out alright – a little drier, perhaps, than they could’ve been, but they weren’t burnt and they were cooked!
I’m still amazed at how it’s possible to make brownies without eggs, butter or milk. This recipe called for desiccated coconut, which could also be substituted for chocolate chips. We decided to go with both desiccated coconut and chocolate chips (and we also bought walnuts but forgot to put them in). The result was a really interesting – and addictive – flavor. Between the two of us, we polished off the entire batch of brownies in one night! No regrets whatsoever.
And the parmigiana was amazing. It was a lot of veggies (eggplants, mushrooms, onions to name a few), the pasta and a tomato-based sauce. And garlic. A lot of garlic.
I’m really inspired to try and replicate it when I go home! The only reason I didn’t eat more of it was because I wanted to save some space for the brownies.
In line with the Christmas theme, we put on a playlist of Christmas songs while cooking/baking and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and Love Actually (I’m aware that it’s very problematic from a feminist perspective, but it’s still one of the Christmas classics for me).
I can’t think of a better way to have spent Christmas Eve!
Christmas Day was bright and sunny – and super quiet in Quito. Everything seemed to be closed (including Supermaxi), but we managed to find a convenience store that was open and bought some food. Lunch was a very delicious sandwich consisting of vegan sausage, lettuce, onion and fried garlic. I never knew vegan food could be so tasty!
I made brownies again (this time with walnuts) as the batch from yesterday was gone and helped with the washing up while Linda did all the heavy lifting for Christmas dinner.
We had an exquisite 5-course dinner:
Parmigiana (from yesterday)
Stuffed peppers (super spicy, which I loved)
Stir-fried vegetables with rice
And, of course, the brownies.
All this plus a bottle of really sweet sparkling wine!
One of the highlights of my Christmas was definitely being able to watch almost all the NBA Christmas Day games, for the first time ever. Being in a similar time zone is so useful!