I am Karina van Twisk and I am culinary devotee. Since very little, cooking was my favorite activity, I enjoy trying new and old-school cuisines. Making cocktails is a part of this passion, since they are complements for a great meal. Enjoyable drinks that combine all their features in order to melt together in a fusion of flavors, aromas, and textures. Things that humanize our daily feeding apart from the same old boring products we’re sometimes forced to ingest in order to please our appetites.
Being born in the late 70s in the tiny country of Ecuador (South-America), where food is more traditional than its own history, it has been difficult to break away from the same old, same old culinary culture inherited long time ago from its first natives. This is corn for breakfast, rice for lunch and leftovers for dinner! Any new type of cuisine that would not include one of these vital ingredients is marked for failure and fatal destiny (that’s something I realized after I opened my Dutch food cafe). People in this country are not only reluctant to try new things but also against the idea of change, even if that change is for something better. Unless you serve rice with the meal won’t be a meal for the locals, and no soup is no life, no matter how bad the soup was made: noodles, milk, cheese and occasional more rice onto it!
And what can I say about a drink to accompany the meals (almuerzos), watery fruity-taste-like beverages served next to your lunch which makes you say a prayer just to not getting sick after by the doubtful source of this concoction.
Beer is drunk during festivities or most commonly on Mondays, usually by the native indians who live outside the urban areas. You may see old women with grey braids and big bellies sitting outside their homes drinking straight from a liter-sized bottle of Pilsener, the ecuadorian favorite and only brand available. This is not a social way to have a beer I’d say, it is more like a cheaper way to drown their pains, sadness and disappointments, maybe due to the fact that their husbands used the whole monthly wage into buying cheap sugar cane aguardiente the weekend before.
And it is clear that people who did not travel out of this tiny country have no idea of what else is there. Corn, pork and rice have been prepared for centuries just like that: dry and tasteless… no wonder the ají sauce (red chili pepper blended with tamarillo fruit and seasoned with onions and cilantro) and must additive at any Ecuadorian table. Only those who have been so privileged to travel and seen other cultures would appreciate the taste of a nice red wine after a medium-rare steak and baked potatoes.
But not all is darkness and flavorless culinary, there are also a few of things I like eating and try from time to time, if you know how to prepare it right though! I’ve given up trying at restaurants, got nothing but frustrated and gastroenterologists bills. Best is if they can’t make it right then make it yourself! My theory of life and surviving principle.
Nothing like preparing your own Martini by simply getting the ingredients from the market, reading a recipe on my own cocktails site and shaking it at rhythm .. way out of traditional Ecuadorian chicha or jugo de naranjilla mixed with oatmeal…ew.
However respectful of everybody’s customs and habits I can’t say more than that. When you get to know what’s the real goodness in life, then maybe you’ll be agreed with me.
I remember the first time I actually felt my tongue papillae and the possibility of its existence after the first bite of a great Rockefort and other aged cheese platter. This happened in Montreal, Canada in one of those many nice French-fusion restaurants, I was young and “flavored-naive”. The burst in my mouth gave me (what I like to call) the first Culinary Orgasm of my life. Many well-aged cheeses together with the crunchy walnuts and fresh strawberries gave another meaning to life: between Camembert de Normandie, Emmental de Savoie and the aftertaste Rockefort. As little as a sip of the best home red wine together with the best dinner so far had opened my appetite for something else than corn and rice, something better perhaps?!
Life kept on getting better on the other side and even when I got back I tried to imitate the pleasant sensation with what it was available at tiny Ecuador. With the years more people got to travel either as a business associate or as an illegal needed aid. And more than sure they also experienced the new taste of the world and what it brought with is the need for getting those items available in the native land. Despite of many adversary conditions such as high importing tax and lack of interest, there were few brave ones who determined to enjoy the manna from overseas once again opened their own imported food stores, maybe for personal consumption or maybe for the ambition of sharing the noble products that they fell in love with during their travel adventures. Who knows?
However, extreme traditionalists who have probably never travelled in their life times kept on standing by the native food, healthy they say organic they say but never proved, just otherwise.
I can’t deny that from time to time as I am on my travels for more than a month, the craving for the typical Ecuadorian horse food attacks (horse food as my Dutch husband calls the white corn or hominy). But even him has broken the rules and tasted it but just because I make it different than usual.
So the key of success is rooted in the flavor? in the type of ingredients? the way to cook it? or in the love you put on while cooking? I dare to say that all four are valid assumptions.
But how else are you going to find out if you do not try a new different food? I firmly encourage all those who have doubts of getting out of the box. And who knows maybe you will bring a greater new idea for the world who is asking desperately for happiness in the stomach.
I quote a saying that goes like this: Happy Tummy…. Happy Heart!
I’ll have a drink in your behalf and in all of those who like me has travelled the world and tried new food that has changed our whole lives.!!!