The dining room table as is awaits its guests, with the colada morada in the middle.
A Birthday with Colada Morada
Growing up attending a inner-city public school, I was taught that one your birthday you take three one dollar bills, pin them to your shirt and then throughout the day people will give you a dollar.
In Ecuador there’s no $1 bill shirt pinning but there are unexpected parties.
I knew it was my host-sister’s birthday on Monday, so on my way back from school I stopped by the flower shop, bought her some flowers, came home and opened the door to a house the smelled of homemade bread called guaguas de pan on four huge pots of colada morada.
What is colada morada and guaguas de pan?
Colada morada is a typical Ecuadorian drink that is prepared once a year for “El día de Difuntos” — honoring of those family members who have passed away. The berry drink is suppose to symbolize the blood of those who have passed and the homemade bread called guaguas de pan, is suppose to symbolize the bodies.
So drinking “blood” and eating “bodies” is more or less similar to drinking wine and eating bread in Church.
So I walk into the kitchen and immediately start asking questions.
“What’s going on? Are we having a party?” — and after seeing all of the 50 beautifully prepared cups on the dining room table, I assumed the answer was yes.
“Yes. Didn’t I tell you?” said my host mother.
Nope she didn’t tell me that her two sisters, her two sister-in-laws, her other daughter, her two brothers, her seven cousins and their daughters, my host sister’s boyfriend, and my host sister’s friends were coming over to drink colada morada and sing happy birthday to my host sister.
But that’s normal.
That night she and I (I volunteered) ran in and out of the kitchen serving colada morada and cake, a typical Monday evening surprise at la casa de Vela.
Even with the noise of conversation by family members, my host aunt Vicki (left) looks straight at me as I take her photo.
SIDE NOTES: Colada morada is not served on people’s birthdays, but because my host sister’s birthday is close to el día de difuntos, we had colada morada.
OTHER SIDE NOTE: Below is the recipe for anyone who is interested. It’s a sweet drink made with flour and is definitely “Vale La Pena.”
1 cup purple or black corn flour
14 oz naranjilla or lulo pulp (thawed if frozen)
2 cups blackberries (frozen or fresh)
2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 pineapple, peels and core + 2 cups finely diced
5–6 cinnamon sticks
4–5 whole cloves
4–5 all spice berries
12–14 oz panela or brown sugar
A few lemon verbena leaves, fresh or dry
A few lemongrass leaves, fresh or dry
2 pieces orange peel
8 + 4 cups water
1. Place the pineapple skins and core, cinnamon, spices and panela or brown sugar in a large pot with 8 cups of water. Boil for about 20–25 minutes.
2. Add the lemon verbena, lemongrass, and orange peel.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and strain.
4. In a separate pot, add 4 cups of water with the blueberries and blackberries, boil for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool down until safe to handle, blend and strain.
5. Mix the cup of the purple corn flour with 1 cup of the spice pineapple liquid until well diluted.
6. Add the strained berry mix, the naranjilla juice, the spiced pineapple liquid and the diluted purple flour mix to a large pot.
7. Cook over medium heat, stir constantly to keep it from sticking, bring to a boil.
8. Add the pineapple chunks and reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.
9. Remove from the heat, add the strawberry slices. Serve warm or cold.