Fanesca is a traditional soup here in Ecuador and could very well be considered the national dish, as it is prepared throughout the entire country. It is only prepared once a year, during Easter, and served throughout Holy Week.

The origins of this tradition are as diverse as its ingredients. Some studies suggest it is an Inca dish introduced to Ecuador when these people invaded from the south; others claim it was instituted in the country by the first Catholic priests, as a way of  overriding the local “pagan” feasts associated with the harvest, which coincided closely with the Easter season. The less pious believe that the harvesting of grains and legumes in the Andean highlands simply combines fortuitously with the time of Lent.

There are those who defend to their dying breath the religious element of fanesca: its dozen grains and legumes symbolise the 12 Apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel; the fish symbolises Christ and the way that his message feeds the Christian community.

In any case, this certainly is my favorite Ecuadorian dish. I don’t know if that is because we have it only once a year – as far as I’m concerned, I could eat it every week! The base of the soup is twelve legumes/vegetables and bacalao (cod): red beans, white beans, lentils, fava beans, peas, corn, rice, peanuts, chochos (lupini beans), pumpkin, onions, and squash. Because of it’s very strong taste, the bacalao is soaked overnight in milk, and the milk is added to the soup, while the fish is fried separately and served on the side. The different ingredients are all cooked separately and then mixed together with milk, fresh cheese and herbs.

The soup is accompanied by a series of side dishes: hard-boiled eggs, small cheese empanadas, fried plantains, sweet red peppers, avocados… For desert, caramelized figs and cheese. Ok, I’ll admit I’m not very fond of figs, so I’ll have a second bowl of fanesca instead.

We had 20 guests over yesterday to share our fanesca… what a nice crowd! (Ok, so you can only see arms reaching for food but, believe me, they really were nice people!)

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    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Easter was different for us this year!
    Submitted by mdhess08 on Wed, 04/15/2009 – 21:00. (Old blog)

    Hello Everyone! Great News! 4/14/09

    On Easter Sunday, at 6:00 PM My son Jeff, who has been waiting for many years for a kidney, and who will be 35 in two weeks, finally was blessed and got a kidney. It was a six-hour operation, and by midnight, he had a working kidney in his body. The three doctors, who did this operation, told us it went very smooth, there were not any problems, and this new kidney started up working right away. It has not even tried to be rejected now it is Tuesday Night at 7:00 P.M, and I just got home from Miami. The doctors said Jeff is getting better so fast and this kidney is working as if it was his very own. He has been blessed, and he is one happy guy right now. His color of his skin was a greenish gray, turned the first night, which was 2:00 a.m. when he was in recovery that I first got to see him, and his color was so different lighter and pink cheeks. I have been crying for what seems forever, as it all just happened so fast. I feel like it is a dream, I have dreamed of this for him over and again for years. . Yet it is finally true. Jeff is coming home maybe this Friday. He is already sitting up, with pain, but tonight, before I left he asked for his computer, and that is the sign he is doing great. He had his first coffee and he had his first banana in years today. The donor was a 20-year-old male. That is all we know, and his kidney is living on in my son. Jeff will care for it, and will now be starting a new life and a new chapter in his life. It was probably one of the most exciting and happier times we have had in our entire family. We had prayers coming from all over the world. I want to thank you for the very kind wishes sent our way. I am a happy, so thankful Mom.
    Jeff says Easter Sunday, 2009 will never be forgotten, and our loves goes out to the donor and his family. This young man, will not ever be forgotten. We wish we could tell his parents, thank you, yet we are not allowed this. This young man died that evening and 10 hours later his kidney is still going on to help my son live a normal life he has never had before.
    I am back home, tired, and happy, walking on cloud –nine and my son no longer has to live on a machine. Here are the tears again. Whoa,… this has been a very different type experience for us. He is free, and can finally do all he has dreamed of.
    Hugs, Morgan