Cuenca’s famous Easter soup: the culinary approach to learning Spanish

Jun 29, 2008

by Calvin Trillin, September 5, 2005  

I try not to let a decade pass without renewing my assault on Spanish, which I keep hearing described as an easy language to learn. In the nineties, in preparation for a trip to northern Spain, I bought myself a videotape Spanish course in the form of a sixteen-episode soap opera—what Latin Americans call a telenovela—about a young lawyer who finds love while investigating what happened to her client’s first wife. I got so that I could understand the actors fairly well, but when I arrived in Santiago de Compostela I was less successful at understanding people who did not keep repeating, slowly and very clearly, sentences like “Rosario did not die in the war; she escaped that tragedy, thank God.” 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.  Read the complete article at

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