I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Living a natural life is getting so much easier. I have to admit that simply removing our life from the “World of Convenience” aka USA, really has been a huge help in this quest of mine. It’s a lot easier to live a natural life, when, life IS natural. What I mean, is that, when convenience foods are not available, it really pushes one to live outside the box. To try new ways, and to forget the old.
Yes, we can get Oreo cookies and Ruffles potato chips if we really want to. But, when the serving size is half of a single serve in the USA and costs triple the price…it’s a lot easier to just pass on by. Besides, while you’re standing at the tienda window: you can smell fresh plantain chips cooking at the restaurant across the street and as well as fresh-baked Manabi cookies out of the oven…pretty much all day long. They both cost LESS than the spoken of America “treats”. Why on earth would anyone choose the latter?
Yesterday, I really wanted to make hamburgers. Sometimes, we do crave a little bit of “home”… I just didn’t expect to make the best burger I’ve had in my life, with my own two hands in my own kitchen…in Ecuador!
Since hamburgers and spaghetti and meatloaf are not typical foods here, buying ground beef took a bit more effort than simply running to the Super Market. We actually do not have a Super Market. There is no such thing. There are about 20 shops here in town. They each have their specialty, and yes, you must visit each one to get what you want at a fair price. When you want something like beef..especially with a certain request, typically you need to ask 1-3 days ahead of time. Why? Because they don’t store it packaged and waiting in coolers. It is literally ordered straight from the source..the farmer..and when you pick it up, it was likely butchered that morning. You need to take it home asap, they don’t have any preservatives or red dyes to keep it pretty. If you leave it in the fridge, it starts to stink in a little over a day. So, you buy it, and then eat it or freeze it immediately.
As for hamburgers buns and pickles..when you ask for a pickle, you get a fresh sliced cucumber drenched in lemon juice. Buns..you get a funny look unless you ask for bread, and you are pointed to the same baker who makes those heavenly cookies. He gives you a loaf of bread. Ketchup and Mayo…find them if you want, the Ecuadorian versions are delicious, they are not made with sugar or corn syrup, and are often without vinegar. But, really, they are not necessary. And don’t forget the cheese…or do! American cheese can’t be easily or affordably found here. You can get basically 1 kind of queso. It would be weird on a burger, and we didn’t miss it anyway.
At home, I mixed the ground beef up with 1/4 cup of chopped red onion, 1/2 cup of chopped spinach, and 1 egg. I threw them on the skillet and let them cook on low heat while I prepared the buns. I sliced the loaf of bread in half, lengthwise and put the inside face down in a second skillet, drizzled with EVOO, oregano and parsley. I left the bread long enough for it to toast.
When I flipped the burgers, I was amazed to see just a tiny bit of grease in the bottom of the pan. There was not even enough to bother with pouring it out! I did not order “lean” meat. You can’t do that here. You get what they give you. But, something worth noting…every cow we’ve ever seen here, is skinny. They are grass-fed, free range cows. I’ve never seen a barn here, but I have seen many a cow alongside the road. This way of raising cattle is the only way. Farmers here wouldn’t dream of caging or fencing their animals, giving them “feed”, or pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones to make them produce more milk or softer meat. Cows here, eat grass and plow fields. They are “naturally” healthy.
The tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, and onion…they are organic. I buy them weekly from the back of a truck that just came from the fields, or maybe from the neighbor’s garden. They are usually dirty, and sometimes I pick through to avoid any that are over-ripe or moldy, and is not uncommon to find a bug or other garden pest. We do not pay extra for Organic. Organic is the only way. Pesticides and fertilizer are unknown and unnecessary. Fruits and Vegetables live in nature. So do bugs and worms. They are mutually exclusive.
These are our delicious burgers! FULL of flavor, low on grease, locally sourced, AND 100% unprocessed. Even our picky toddlers gobbled them up. They like “healthy” choices, too!