Monday, May 16, 2011


Gracias, Canejo Pascua!
One of the first questions you get asked in Ecuador for small talk is, "Are you Catholic?" (How old are you is another the gringo ladies like, but I think it helps them not care so much about how old they are, since no one else seems to care.) Catholics comprise about 95% of the country, so generally we answer, "No, but we are willing to learn."

For Catholics, Easter is still the big religious holiday (like it used to be in the States before Coca-Cola co-opted Santa Claus). It doesn't have the big parade that Christmas does because it's more a family affair. And the big family day is Good Friday. And the big family meal that day is lunch.

A miracle of fish, extra salt
At this meal and the whole week leading up, it is traditional to eat Fanesca, a soup made from every edible thing found in Ecuador to symbolize the edibleness of food. There are ten different kinds of beans in the soup, with an additional two created in order to make the total twelve to symbolize the 12 apostles. One of the beans, however, represents Judas, so you have to throw it down on the floor, point your finger, and  yell "traitor!" before everyone squashes them with their feet.

Can't you just smell it?
That last part is not true, though I think it would be a good addition, and I may pitch it for future Easters. The soup also contains bacalao, or salt cod, because it's really the best way to get rid of all that extra salt cod that seems to pile up on the streets the week before Easter.

The soup is very rich and is, not surprisingly, different depending on who makes it, given the number of ingredients one can tweak. The best I had was at our friends' Marco and Carmita's house for dinner (after the extended family cleared out after the big meal). And were we cheating by eating chicken as well? I can't remember the whole meat prohibition. I have so much to learn.
Fanesca soup & cherry wine. ¡QuĂ© rico!

It seems there is no canejo de pascua (Easter Bunny) here, which I think is a huge opportunity for American entrepreneurs in a country where the most predominant food staple is processed sugar. But as with St. Nick. he delivers to believers all over the world. Matter of fact, he seems to have modernized and mass produces eggs in a factory here, as the kids noticed that each easter egg was stamped with a bar code and Spanish words. Though I must say I'm not for all this efficiency and modernization; he seems to have substituted some tasty ingredient in his chocolates with wax. Maybe he's sourcing right in the host country.

7th story livin'
And he still managed to find us after we abandoned our semi-impermanent home on the outskirts of town for a friend's apartment left vacant during his trip to Peru. It was a long weekend taste of city living I didn't think I'd have liked as much as I did.

Anyone leaving town for Memorial weekend?

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