The first time I ever “brushed up against” Ecuador was before I had ever conceived of living here. The experience was one of happenstance. It ignited an interest, an itch, that was satisfied in Edie and I moving to the southern hemisphere. Let me tell you how it happened.
I’ve been a photographer for a good number of years now. I produced commercial product photography in the USA for pay. From the most elegant European chocolates to fancy watches to pear ciders, it was my aim to make products look their best. One Christmas, my ever thoughtful daughter gifted me some fancy spices to add more fun to Edie’s and my regular culinary quests. Among these spices were some packets of dried peppers. One package was labeled to show Ecuador as the country of origin.
Those peppers were an ox-blood color with a dull satiny sheen and somewhat translucent. They were leathery and pliable but the seeds inside had separated from the ribs that had born them. You could hear them make a soft rattle when I shook the dried pepper pods. I could hear my brain gears whirring as I thought about a way that I might find a dual use for these peppers.
A few days later, I took them with me to Studio B. I planned to have some fun rendering the peppers in a manner I had shown other products. I wanted to see how they might appear in front of cameras and with some special light I intended to make myself. The peppers were 5-6” inches in length and there were four in the package. Even numbers of objects photograph poorly so I selected three of them with which to create my composition.
I used a 1/4” thick piece of opaque plexiglass as a resting place for the peppers. A single moderate flash with a light box back-lit the peppers, allowing the black seeds to be seen silhouetted on the interior against the red glowing pod. One click was all it took to show those peppers a little differently than we usually see them. Now, copies of this photograph grace the walls of kitchen areas near and far reminding folks of the hot, dry sweetness they can add to particular dishes.
As for Edie and I, those peppers truly created our first musings about a country we thought we might like to live in. We eventually realized the dream by moving here. I can’t recall the particular name of these peppers, only that Ecuador was their origin. I imagine they hail from lower elevations and warmer climes than the Sierra offers. But, they are spicy with nuances of dark cherries and offer flavors that are hard to describe with words. They remind me of all the “Fiery Companions” I have here in Ecuador, all the friends I’ve made and the adventures we’ve taken together. I’m telling you that my times and compadres here in Ecuador are even spicier than the heat these beautiful peppers bring to the palate. Long live Ecuador, its people and its peppers!