It’s a common site on many a street corner in Ecuador – a small cart with a selection of bottles with liquids of different colors and a vendor selling small glasses of a healthy, all natural concoction sure to fix at least some of your ills.
For the first time, I stopped at one while visiting Cuenca, and asked about what was on offer. This young man was selling only one cure – a mixture of spices and fresh fruit juices combined with the juice of the aloe plant, well known in the natural health circles in the United States to help with stomach issues. His recipe is a secret but we can guess at part of it. He boils spices like cinnamon, clove, and anise with fresh fruit. We saw pineapple for sure. This liquid is then mixed with the aloe juice. The problem is that one liquid is like water while the other is a more gooey substance and the two do not mix easily. Therefore, the juggling act:
The final product is a small portion of gooey, brown juice that takes an artful approach to drink. When I tried to take a sip, I couldn’t as the viscous aloe wanted to keep pouring from the cup even as I removed my lips from the edge. I learned to take a moment to actually cut the substance with my lips before taking the glass away. The truth is that the taste of pineapple and sweet spices was wonderful but the texture almost made me spit the entire drink back out. I couldn’t do it. The drink was served in a real glass, not a plastic throwaway cup that I could take down the street with me. And I just couldn’t bare to tell this young man I couldn’t finish my dose of medicine. He had let me photograph the entire process and the least I could do was finish my 50 cent drink of medicinal aloe. After all, it promised to take care of any stomach issues I might have while in Cuenca.