Fanesca is the traditional Ecuadorian dish for Easter. It also happens to be my all-time favorite when it comes to Ecuadorian cuisine. I will never turn down an invitation to eat a bowl, regardless of who prepares it and what particular ingredients are included or left out. Except for “mellocos,” which you might have heard of as ulluco tubers. Certainly not my favorite, and I will pick them out if included.
Now, I promise I’m not biased. Even though not born here, my “gringa” mother’s fanesca IS THE BEST I have ever had and probably ever will have. You don’t have to take my word for it… ask anyone who has had her fanesca, and they will also tell you it is the best they’ve had.
And for me there are also many “womanly” memories attached to this dish, and my mother is wrapped up in all of them. Growing up, I remember her making it with my Ecuadorian grandmother. Since it is pretty involved (lots of peeling, chopping, and cooking of the separate ingredients), I even remember my grandma spending the night, because the cooking spread over a couple of days. And I would help pop peas out of their pods while I sat with her at the kitchen table and listened to her stories, with my mother bustling busily around us.
During my adult years, and as a mother myself, there have also been times shared with Jamie. And we were soon to discover my daughter-in-law Karina is the expert when it comes to preparing some of the side dishes that accompany the fanesca. (She makes a mean empanada!) And through it all, my mother has always been at the head of it all, leading the traffic. Everybody can help, but she’s the one to make the final mixing of it all together, and I swear there is some magic in her hands.
Then there are the parties! Because of all the work involved in preparing this meal, my mother’s philosophy has always been to share… BIG. So every year on the Easter weekend she fills the house with anywhere from twenty to forty people. After Christmas, this has always been the biggest celebration in our family. And for this particular meal, my mother has always managed to bring together the oddest assortment of people together. And it works.
For the first time ever, my mother did not make fanesca last year. It was too soon after the move, the house wasn’t ready, she wasn’t feeling too well. And since I didn’t go into town that week, for the first time in years Easter went by without me being able to enjoy my favorite Ecuadorian meal. My mother promised she would make it for me again this year. But, as you know, she is in the middle of building, and things at her house are pretty much upside down. With furniture stacked in the living room, and workers in and out, she just doesn’t have energy for one more thing.
So last Sunday Jono and I took her out to lunch, and I was able to order and enjoy a bowl of fanesca. It was Ok. But it wasn’t like my mom’s! Hers is so creamy, and such an incredible blend of flavors.
I begged. I cajoled. “We don’t have to have a party,” I pleaded. “Make it just for me, and I’ll freeze it and eat it every day for weeks to come.” Instead, she has now handed down her recipe, and has told me perhaps it is time for me to take over this particular celebration. Yikes! There it is (below). One page with a long list of all the ingredients, and a second page with detailed instructions on what and what not to do. Plus a whole ride into Quito on Friday where she gave me her tips, and the wisdom of years preparing this food. Very big shoes to fill here!
So, with fear and trembling, I am beginning this process today, with the very first and few ingredients I have on hand. Just in case, I am halving the recipe (it will still make A LOT!) Tomorrow I will make a trip to the supermarket to purchase everything else I need, and I will spend the rest of the day cooking. And hopefully on Tuesday I will be able to do the final mixing and blending.
I also discovered a great way to keep the recipe right on hand and at eye level. I placed both sheets back to back in a sheet protector, and attached it with a clip to one of those little plastic hangers that come with a scarf. I guess any little hanger would do, right?
So right now the pumpkin, squash, and rice are cooking. I am now committed. If all goes well, instead of a party, I’ll be the Easter bunny this year. But instead of eggs, I’ll be delivering fanesca. 🙂
Wish me luck!