One of the most interesting subjects about Ecuador is the wonderful food. The mid-day meal is the big meal of the day followed by a light dinner. Many businesses and retail establishments close from one to three in the afternoon when most people go home for the main meal of the day. Restaurants open early but are never full until at least nine PM. It is not unusual to see a table full of an entire family, grandmother and grandfather, mother and father, cousins and children, even small children, eating supper that will last up to 10 or 11 at night. To buy food for your own cooking, there is a large supermarket chain in Ecuador called Supermaxi who have three stores in Cuenca. This is far fewer than you may be accustomed to but Supermaxi has almost everything you might want. A couple of notable exceptions are that there are very few frozen foods and almost no prepared food. Also fresh orange juice in cartons like Tropicana is expensive at around $6.00 per quart as everything imported carries a high protective tariff. Oranges and most fruits are very inexpensive. Most people squeeze their own OJ using an Oster juicer. You will have to get used to the food packaging in Ecuador as some of it is very unusual. Milk comes either raw and is delivered from buckets by truck to your door, or fresh pasteurized milk in one liter, plastic bags at the markets which have to be cut open and poured into a jug to keep in the refrigerator, or irradiated milk in one liter boxes that you keep un-refrigerated in the pantry until you need it. The wine we drink is quite good at about $5.50 per liter. It comes from Chile and is also in plastic boxes. Hamburger meat has very little fat. We buy 1% fat content ground beef at about $2.50 per pound. The produce counter is the most fun with dozens of unusual fruits and vegetables, too many to name. At the market you will find imported products like Ritz crackers alongside a locally made imitation that will be half the price. It takes a little investigation to find what the good local products are but the savings can be large. Mini-markets are on almost every block where you can get basic staples. Cuenca has an incredible co-op called Coopera which sells fresh fruit and vegetables many of which you have never seen before at extremely reasonable prices. Yesterday, $13 bought us a cantaloupe, a head of lettuce, a cucumber, a pound of white grapes, a pound of huge strawberries, four fat carrots, a half dozen tangerines, two mangos, a dozen peaches, a dozen tomatoes and a dozen large juice oranges. At a nearby flower shop, another $5 bought 18 long stem white roses, 12 white carnations and 12 stalks of Baby’s Breath. We keep fresh flowers in vases around the apartment almost all the time. In the city, vendors push wheelbarrows full of huge strawberries, oranges and tangerines that are some of the best you can find anywhere. There are three huge Mercado’s with hundreds of stalls where Indians sell farm raised fruit, vegetables, meats (mostly un-refrigerated), and live animals like chickens, guinea pig, dogs and cats. We sometimes shop there when we are looking for some unusual produce but the Mercado’s are somewhat risky places for gringos. Unfortunately, the indigenous Indian diet of boiled rice and fried chicken causes a lot of obesity and the poorer children are lacking in milk which stunts their growth. All in All, our food purchases and restaurant experiences have been excellent. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of restaurants, only a few dozen of which we have gone to. Most have been great. As an example, a very high end restaurant called Quatros Rios serves an excellent dinner comparable to any you might find in the best US restaurants at about $10 per person. There are restaurants at every price range down to a Tipico at $1.50. Everyone has their favorites. A number of them are in old Spanish hotels where the restaurant is in an indoor hacienda-like, courtyard. There are Chinese, Indian, Italian, and most other cuisines available.