2000s Archive

Desperately Seeking Ceviche

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A couple of days later, we were back at Hacienda Cusin—the rare example of a place that has been restored into complete comfort with no accompanying glitz. I was sitting in one of the courtyards, having a chat about fanesca with the chef, Marco Yanez, who had provided us with a particularly splendid example on Good Friday. An explanation of its preparation makes fanesca sound like something that should appear on an absolutely accurate menu as Potage Labor Intensive. It must include 12 grains and beans, to represent the 12 apostles—each ingredient soaked and cooked and dried and peeled separately. The base, salt cod cooked in milk, is thickened with peanuts; naturally, it’s mandatory to start with raw peanuts, then toast them, then peel them, then grind them. I could see why fanesca is eaten only during Holy Week: When some frantically slurping teenager calls out, “Mom, can we have this again next week?” it stands to reason that Mom, her fingers sore from peeling corn kernels and fava beans, would answer, “Talk to me in about a year, buster.”

Fanesca must be, among other things, a restorative: With a couple of bowls of it under my belt, I was able to begin my next lunch by enthusiastically polishing off a shrimp ceviche and a hearts of palm ceviche. Even while I was eating the ceviche, though, I found myself calculating how many more fanesca opportunities I’d have before Easter Sunday. I couldn’t help wondering if, assuming the labor-cost issue could be sorted out, some res­taurant in New York—maybe even some restaurant in lower Manhattan—might be induced to put fanesca on its menu. In New York, of course, there’d be no reason to be overly strict about the custom of serving it only during Holy Week. When the ingredients were available, a sign on the restaurant would announce hoy fanesca!

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