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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Fickle Foreigner and Other Expat Tales

Okay, so maybe there aren't really any "tales" included in this blog post, but I think there's a life lesson to be had somewhere in there.

I feel badly that we don't have the income to support all the restaurants that we like here in Cuenca. Some really good ones have come and gone, while other  more pedestrian (is that a nice way to say it?) remain. How can this be? It's a phenomenon I like to call "the fickle foreigner".

Here's how it goes: a new restaurant opens, and craving diversity, the expat community floods it with business - I include returning Ecuadorians that have been in Europe and North America in this group. (You must understand that in Ecuador there isn't the diversity of food choices that many have grown to appreciate. Chicken is chicken; pork - pork etc. There's a noted lack of foreign ingredients like Thai, Chinese, Indian, European, etc. that makes it difficult to achieve any real diversity.) So, what happens when you've gone to a place for the 5th time in a couple of weeks? Yup, you get tired of it. Then something miraculous happens, just when you think you might have to cook a meal at home; another restaurant opens! (Yay!) Cue the flock.

Now, the old restaurant suddenly has a dip in sales, they have to let staff go, their quality slips and no one wants to eat there anymore. So that restaurant has to close up after what was an incredibly promising start. The new restaurant booms with success and the cycle continues.

It's not really the expats fault, especially if cooking at home holds zero interest for them, but if they'd just show a leetle bit of common sense or even pragmatism, they could stop the cycle. This also applies to the better heeled Ecuadorian middle and upper class. They seem to suffer the same affliction.

I want to make something perfectly clear...Ecuadorian food is actually very flavourful. (Beware the salt content in some places!) There's just not any hint of fusion, no external influences (except the rice that the Spaniards brought with them). There's very little spice; aji sauce being the go to condiment, if you're looking for a little heat (emphasis on 'little'). They do good solid basic food and make an art form of soup. If you're a meat/poultry/fish and potato person, without all the bells and whistles you'll think you've died and gone to heaven.

So if you really (and I mean REALLY) love a restaurant here, do it a favour and don't binge at it. Go once a week, find other places in between and give the owners a real chance at making it, not a tidal wave of false success . In truth, there are restaurants here that have clued in to the "Fickle Foreigner Phenomenon" and only open once a week for dinner. While I take umbrage at their title of "restaurant" I can't really find a suitable alternative to replace it.

If you have the funds, be kind and spread the love. We'll continue to go to our favourites and try the new ones as our budget allows.

The photos in the blog are only some of our favourites, or just good places to get together with friends based on location, price point or bilingualism. Tell us what your favourite restaurant is in Cuenca in the comments section. Not only will it help others who come visit but might give us somewhere new to try.

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