It’s funny. Before you leave on that voyage to a far flung land, you don’t always think about what you put in your mouth. But when you arrive there, you think of almost nothing else.
I just got back from a week in Ecuador. It was an exciting and soul restoring trip, and I plan to write about all aspects of it. But right now, my thoughts are about the basics – food and water.
If you visit Ecuador, or many other places around the world, you are told not to reach for that glass of water. Are you a shower singer? Better not be one here. If you run your toothbrush under tap water, throw it away, right now, and get a new one. If you mistakenly drink the local water, you could end up with a host of ailments that fall under the polite term, “tummy trouble.”
In our group, almost every day and at every meal, we were warned about various foods and liquids. “The water is okay!” someone would yell at lunch, and most of us would reach for our glasses. The cautious ones reached for a bottle of Coca Cola, the classic version, which appears to be Ecuador’s national drink. But what about that milk? Is it pasteurized? Is it safe to add to my coffee?
I remember sitting down to a delicious looking salad. Most in our group had been avoiding lettuce and tomatoes all week, and these salads were packed with them. “The lettuce and tomatoes are okay!” our group leader announced. We breathed a sigh of relief. Then she added, “I’m not sure about the cheese, though.”
Evidently there is good cheese and bad cheese. Some is more ‘raw’ then others. Can you tell by looking? No. Every morning started with a breakfast buffet with various fruits and melons. What were they washed with? Is that strawberry “okay”? Can I bite into this apple?
After a few days of this, it was starting to drive me nuts. I decided to set a reasonable guideline for myself. If they said not to drink or eat something, I wouldn’t. But if they didn’t, I would go ahead and sample it.
So I ate the cheese that came with my salad. I accepted the tin cup brimming with coffee. Was the coffee brought to a full boil? Was the cheese too raw? I don’t know. They both tasted great, and there were no after effects. Others in our group helped themselves to almost everything, and none of them got sick. I never really did either.
When I arrived back in the States, I rejoiced that I could now drink and eat whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about the water or milk. I could drink as much as I liked.
At my apartment, an unopened gallon jug of milk I had bought the week before sat there in the fridge, waiting. The expiration date was the next day. I poured a small glass and drank it with confidence. Surely this milk was okay to drink.