Cotacachi / Cotacachi / Ecuadorian food / Living in Ecuador

Ecuador in the Raw

Life in Ecuador can be pretty raw and pretty basic. For instance, every day I see indigenous women who have chosen to wear a simple costume from infancy until the end of their lives.

Long skirts, sequined blouses, gold necklaces–the look doesn’t change from season to season or even from year to year.  You won’t find twenty pairs of Monolos in their closets. In fact, among the indigenous, both men and women wear one style and color of shoe.

There are men who still plow with oxen instead of with a tractor and build houses with chisels and hammers instead of power tools.  It’s been such a pleasure watching the building crew construct our caretaker’s cottage in low-tech ways.

When they need a level they siphon water through a clear hose stretched from our stream to the foundation of the house.  Holding it flat they read the level of the water in the hose.  Simple, cheap and effective.

Gary and I love this simple life, especially Ecuador at its rawest.  One of our favorite raw activities is going to the Sunday produce market.

The smell of ripe strawberries lying unabashedly unadorned and the pungent odor of newly-picked basil is practically aphrodisiac.  We usually head first for the juice bar to polish off a tall glass of fresh-squeezed carrot and orange juice.  This is raw food at its very best.

Gary’s Secret Vice

I’ve known for years that Gary and I share a delight in these raw and basic olfactory and gustatory experiences.  But it turns out that I married a man who’d been keeping a piece of his past hidden from me.

It wasn’t until about a year ago, after 13 years of marriage, that I discovered something he’d never revealed to me.  And I was shocked.

Gary confessed that he drank raw milk as a child. And he loved it.

Not only that, he thrived on it.  His mother would milk their cows and he’d consume the warm bubbly brew with gusto.

Apparently with no ill effects.  He went on to be a champion high school quarterback.

It wasn’t a crime back then; raw milk hadn’t been declared hazardous to your health or an illegal activity.

And since I’m revealing Gary’s indiscretions, it’s only fair that I confess my own raw sins. Now that we are living in Ecuador, I have joined him in a life of crime.  Our list ofpossibly  imprisonable raw offenses (if we were living in the U.S.) continues to grow.  We once drank raw goat milk.

Right on the streets of Cotacachi we brazenly and openly drank it warm, squeezed from the teat of a nanny goat being led from house to house.  Just to be clear:  the goat’s owner milked it for us; it wasn’t a teat-to-mouth operation.

Thank goodness, in Ecuador she isn’t considered a purveyor of illegal goods. You can read more about the goat lady here.

Now that Gary has “come out” regarding raw milk, he persuaded me to join him in imbibing this liquid openly.  There are several women who make the rounds in Cotacachi every day, selling raw cow’s milk on the streets.

One waves to us from her old army green and white Toyota.  Another one has a red hatch back that serves as her mobile milk dispenser.

Eager buyers line up with their pitchers and buckets while the milk lady dispenses her frothy libation.

I doubt that many of these raw milk lovers here realize they could be rounded up as criminals if they lived in the United States.  Just for doing what was the norm fifty years ago and even more recently–drinking raw milk fresh from the source–no pasteurization, no homogenization, no sterilization, just 100% pure and natural.

In the U.S. there is a very active campaign going on against the sale of raw milk.  There are people being fined, having their businesses raided, their milk, milk products and records confiscated, lives and finances ruined, all because they sell raw milk products.  Mike Adams of calls this governmental behavior “outrageous acts of economic terrorism.”

It is now an offense for which the guilty can be jailed, even imprisoned.  If cows really knew what was going on, they’d be shuddering in their udders.

Little do these innocent Cotacachi calves know that some of their cousins in the U.S. are involved in criminal activities.

But I’m not done.  Gary and I also eat raw cheese made from raw milk. Often.  Delicious cheeses lovingly aged for months in red wine in the dairy’s cheese cellar–sharp cheeses, hard cheeses, soft cheeses.  Here’s more about the pristine Ecuador dairy and cheese operation.

We are so naive and misinformed that we don’t understand the dangers.  In fact, we haven’t noticed any.  Thus ignorance is bliss–raw and unpasteurized.

And we’re not alone.  Here’s incriminating evidence of some of our partners in crime consuming  raw cheese tidbits.

We also eat plenty of raw vegetables.  Is that a crime yet?  Probably will be soon.

Perhaps it isn’t enough that vegetables often come plastic-wrapped in styrofoam containers, irradiated into lifelessness and so sterile that they last for weeks in the fridge.  Will our carrots next have to be boiled, baked or stewed before we can even buy them?  Pasteurized, stamped and labeled before we can consume them?  Oh yeah, many of them already are. . .

It’s bad enough that you can no longer touch a lot of the veggies sold in many grocery stores. In the name of ease, sterility and uniform packaging, we’ve been stripped of our right to pinch a tomato, caress a fuzzy peach or inhale the heady aroma of  a succulent mango.

You may like your life and your food sterilized and well-wrapped, but give me mine unwashed, unfiltered, rich in earthy smells and even a few bugs.  That way I know it’s alive and well, just as I want to be for many years to come.

If it’s not against the law for consumers to smoke cigarettes even with health warnings stamped right on the wrapper I have the right to consume raw milk.



  1. The reason milk is PASTURIZED is to prevent the spread of bovine (that’s cattle -both beef and dairy) Tuberculosis,Leptospirosis and Brucellosis.
    There is still all three of these bacteria out there and the latest outbreak have been in Texas,Missouri and Colorado.
    USDA’s Veterinary Services along with my old agency Meat and Poultry Inspection brought about the erradication of TB back in 1938.
    Drinking raw milk is a crap shoot with your health the loser!!

  2. Enjoyed the article about the raw milk greatly as I was a farm girl growing up, and that’s all we drank was fresh cow milk and goat milk. Why I didn’t know it was against the law to drink your OWN cow/goat milk! Who cares anyway? I would appreciate your comments about the weather, climate in Vilacambamba…as we found Cotacachi a bit cold in January, and think V. would be a better choice. Tell Gary to keep drinking his fresh milk.

  3. Thank you Linda. You give me the courage to admit to my illegal activities. Even while living in the great US of A, I too have criminal affiliations. Once a week we have a secret “drop” of illegal milk. Even if tortured, I could not give my supplier’s name. They run the risk of loosing everything so I will never be able to thank them.

  4. Haha! that was pretty funny! So disturbingly true. I’m a criminal too and drink raw milk, oh dear. I must go undercover from now on, now that I’ve confessed!

  5. Larry Vickers says:

    Well this is shocking beyond belief! As I have long ago informed my wife, food without labels is not real food at all!
    The very idea, eating raw foods. Astonishing. It calls up primitive practices, like soaking in mud or floating in hot springs: horrifying! What’s next, eating wild plants??

  6. Try raw, warm milk with rum.

  7. You are a bad girl…and a bit sarcastic!

  8. Loved this post! It’s so full of truth you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it. Best of luck in your milk endeavors! I hope you both live to 150, just to show those old goats back in the US how wrong they are! 😉

  9. from natural news article
    A writeup on raw milk published in The Globe and Mail back in 2010 explains that Queen Elizabeth personally drinks raw milk, and that when her grandsons Harry and William were students at Eton College, she went out of her way to smuggle it in for them as well. The Queen apparently recognizes some value in raw milk beyond what health authorities are willing to admit.
    end of quote

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