Fanesca in Ecuador, a soup like no other

Posted on August 8, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Ecuador Travel, Ecuador Trivia, Religion, Social Issues

Calvin Trillin/ reported, When I decided last winter to regroup my forces, it occurred to me that Ecuador might be a good place to study Spanish this go-around. I had in mind Cuenca, around Holy Week. From what I’d gathered during a previous trip to Ecuador, Holy Week is the only time of year you can get fanesca—an exceedingly thick and hearty soup, heavy on the beans. I adore fanesca, and, given my record in trying to solve the mysteries of a foreign tongue, I figured that having a particularly appealing fallback made a lot of sense.

…Cuenca is a graceful colonial city in the part of the Andes that Ecuadorans call the Southern Highlands. Although it’s Ecuador’s third-largest city, it wasn’t connected by paved road to the rest of the country until the sixties. Among Ecuador’s urban-dwellers, Cuencans are thought of as the most traditionalist in matters of religion and culture.


…custom of families eating fanesca on Good Friday remained strong in Cuenca, and that many restaurants would be serving it during the entire week before that. My first trip to one of Cuenca’s markets made it obvious that I was about as close to the source of fanesca’s ingredients as I could get without living in the middle of a bean patch. All the vegetables and spices required—corn, for instance, and fava beans and a couple of kinds of squash—grow in the area, and some of them apparently don’t make it as far as Guayaquil, which is only thirty minutes away by air. That may be because the distribution system seems to consist largely of indigenous women who come to the market from the countryside, many of them in the bright-colored flared skirts and high-crowned panama hats that can make even a small woman of some years look rather, well, zippy. In the markets, they sit behind gunnysacks of what their families have grown—ten or twelve kinds of potatoes, or outsized corn kernels of various ages, or a selection of beans so large and potatoes so small that even one of those compulsive veggie connoisseurs who frequent markets like Union Square, in Manhattan, or the Ferry Building, in San Francisco, would have to do some close inspection to make certain that she wasn’t on the path to making her signature bean salad out of spuds by mistake. Read Full Article in New Yorker

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