Can you think of anything that immediately connects people more than “breaking bread” together? A universal truth is that food is an important part of everyone’s cultural heritage and individual identity. We all have favourite foods which generally fluctuate throughout the year based on what plants are in season and which recipes our family have traditionally enjoyed during the holidays. Food brings friends and families together, connects us to people and places, and engages all of our five senses in order to create unforgettable memories.
Cuisine in the Amazon Rainforest is truly unique. If you haven’t travelled there yet and had the chance to taste local delicacies, you’re missing out. Communities such as the indigenous Kichwa in Ecuador have kept their ancient Amazonian culture alive and strong. They are happy to share their knowledge of the tasty and sustainable local foods that you can try on your next vacation.
Visitors are treated with the primal experience of sitting by a crackling wood fire while the preparations unfold before you. Traditional recipes start with maintaining a direct connection to the land through the collection of natural resources like delicious fresh fish or the more exotic option of skewered palm worms. The fire lends itself beautifully to the incredibly clever method of roasting food in the traditional way by wrapping food in bijao leaves. This helps infuse the meat with fresh spices such as wild garlic or chili… simply delectable!
But sustenance goes far beyond feeding our bodies; it also feeds our souls. Amazonian cultures have known this since time immemorial. To help you get back in touch with such ancient knowledge, you have to try drinking Guayusa tea. A medicine woman acts as a guide through an authentic Guayusada ritual which is said to feed, cleanse, and rejuvenate the soul. You are invited to describe dreams you have had in order to have their meanings interpreted and get practical, personalized advise to help your spirit heal and grow.
This plant does not grow anywhere else on Earth, so drinking a natural infusion of its leaves is very special. The plant is sacred to the Kichwa because of its historic cultural significance based on its natural health benefits and healing properties. Guayusa is full of caffeine which, if you’ve ever enjoyed a cup of coffee or steeped tea, you know is invaluable especially first thing in the morning! This tea’s short-term effects give you an overall sense of well-being and happiness because it helps kick your metabolism into gear and energize your body for the day ahead. In the long-term, its anti-inflammatory effect soothes conditions caused by inflammation such as the symptoms of arthritis. These positive spiritual and physiological effects are exactly what you need to rejuvenate both mind and body, and escape the winter blues.
Food can be a key way to connect with strangers on a personal level and learn a little about other unique cultures. So no matter which far-flung corner of the world you visit on your next big trip, remember to bring your appetite for adventure! Your senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste will thank you for many years to come.
Miguel Andy is General Manager of Napo Wildlife Center. Napo Wildlife Center is an eco-lodge offering unforgettable experiences in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, inside Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, which is managed by the Añangu kichwa aboriginal community.