Written by: cafemosaicoec
Photos: Diana Godoy Saker
Fanesca is an emblematic dish of Ecuador, traditionally prepared on Easter and celebrated by both Catholic and indigenous groups. This thick soup is made with cod, 12 grains, cabbage, Andean pumpkins, cheese, milk, and peanuts. Its origin comes from the fusion of cultures and religious beliefs back in the XIX century.
“During the colony, in the period of evangelization, the Spaniards combined Catholic symbols and beliefs with indigenous elements, it was their strategy to achieve cultural mestizaje (Cueva, 2014)”. This mestizaje is also found in churches, art, architecture, and writings of the epoch. Suns, moons, corn symbols are intertwined with the Spanish Catholic symbols. Fanesca began as a ceremonial dish prepared by the indigenous people 4000 years ago to celebrate the harvest. It was originally prepared using local grains such as melloco, chocho, beans, corn, habas, potatoes, peanuts, as well as products used in trade such as fish. With the coming of the europeans, several products where added to the local cuisine like peas, lentil, parsley, onion and eggs. Fanesca truly represents a fusion of culture clash. During the Semana Santa (holy week), christians celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and at the same time indians celebrate the beginning of the harvest. While christians use twelve grains representing the twelve apostles of Christ, the indians add grains to celebrate fertility. Regardless of your ethnicity, there is no argument that Fanesca is a mystical dish that brings Ecuadorian families together. It is a very elaborate dish to prepare so a lot of hands are needed. Ecuadorian families are large and include distant relatives and friends so a very big pot is needed! If you happen to be in Ecuador during Semana Santa (April), don’t forget to try Fanesca and enjoy the flavors of our cultural heritage.
Ecuadorian tradition serves up Fanesca with molo (mashed potatoes) and may include other accompaniments such as chihuiles (a type of tamale), and desserts such as pristinos, caramelized figs with cheese, and arroz con leche (sweet rice in milk with raisins).