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Mar 7, 2011 09:21 PM

Lenten food?

It starts Wednesday. What else is there beside fish frys, pretzels and hot cross buns?

Here's an old post on Lenten soups

Something I never heard of before that is served on Holy Week in Ecuador is fanesca, a soup with twleve beans and grains (symbol of the twelve apostles). From wikipedia

"It is a rich soup, with the primary ingredients being figleaf gourd (sambo), pumpkin (zapallo), and twelve different kinds of beans and grains (chochos (lupines), habas (fava beans), lentils, peas, corn and others) ... and bacalao (salt cod), cooked in milk, due to the Christian religious prohibition against red meat during Holy Week (the week before Easter). It is also generally garnished with hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs, parsley, and sometimes empanadas"

The Greeks have Lenten Cake - (Keik Nistisimo)

There's also Greek Lenten Bread (Lagana)

"The Lenten bread known as Lagana traditionally sees the light of day only once each year, on the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent, known as Clean Monday. "

From a blog with sections of Maria Von Trapp's book (yes, the real one, not Julie Andrews), there are reicpes for

- Spring Herb Soup (Siebenkraeutersuppe) served on Holy Thursdsay
"Afterwards there is the traditional spinach with fried eggs. In Austria, Holy Thursday is called Gruendonnerstag (Green Thursday). Many people think that the word “gruen” stands for the color, but this is not so. It derives from the ancient German word “greinen,” meaning “to cry or moan.” Nevertheless, Gruendonnerstag will have its green lunch."

- Unleavened bread (and an interesting food-related section following the recipe)

- Simmel Cake (served on the third Sunday of Lent when some Catholics were allowed a day off from the fasting)

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  1. When i was growing up Catholic in the 80s, Fridays during Lent meant cheese pizza. Not exactly a sacrifice.

    I'm kind of curious to see what others post. I'd like to try some Lenten recipes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: manraysky

      I grew up Catholic in the 70s-80s and Fridays either meant fish fries at the local church, various pierogies, baked mac and cheese or tuna noodle. We had to eat fish sandwiches or fish sticks at the school barfatoria, or at McDs if my friends had a car and could leave school for lunch when I was in HS.

      Ive discovered a way to make fish sticks from haddock and cod fillets and they are actually quite good.

    2. we always had fish sticks. now that was sacrifice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: j8715

        Sacrifice/ torture - you got that right! Mrs. Paul's fish sticks or a can of tuna heated with Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup poured over toast.

      2. Fish sticks, tuna noodle casserole, mac & cheese, or breakfast foods...eggs and fried potatoes or pancakes.

        Cheese pizza would have been a dream come true!

        Technically, we had a dispensation because my dad was military, but my parents were very Catholic and never took advantage of that.

        1. rworange not certain if I asked you this in another thread (about winding country roads up to a lake), but since you are in Guatemala I am curious whether they have as many varieties of dried fish this time of year and have Lenten specialties based on dried fish like El Salvador (prepared various ways included filets and fish balls, generally served in a broth sometimes made with shrimp). Its not a cooking tradition, but in this part of Brazil there is a fishing moratorium through carnaval, but they lift a lot of the restrictions in time for lent (obviously the science of managing the stocks and timing for spawning in the rivers plays a huge role, but I think practicality has something to do with it -- keep restrictions through carnaval (when prices surge) but then release them when the demand is high). Probably the most unusual dish I have had for Lent in Brazil is salt cod in a bean puree with okra, although it maybe a more modern dish, and frankly I would prefer a good bacalhoada anyway. : -)

          Here in Espirito Santo Semana Santa is the week when a 'torta capixaba' is prepared, a dish of assorted seafood and salt cod, prepared with heart of palm, colored with annato, mixed with egg whites, and baked in a traditional panela de barro (clay pot).

          7 Replies
          1. re: itaunas

            I'm not having a lot of luck finding Guatemalan lenten food. The family said there isn't any, but they are Evangelicos ... so who knows. On Sad Tuesday (Carnival), the kids have no school. No parades or anything. As far as I can determine the only tradition is throwing colored eggshells filled with confetti at people

            This site says

            " As far as special Easter foods go, Guatemala has very few, although there is a dish called pescado seco (dried fish) that is made after soaking dehydrated, salted fish in water then cooking it as you wish. It’s about as tasty as it sounds. Don’t fret, though – tamales and atol are a big part of the tradition, too"

            Another site had a dried cod recipe called Cod Bizkaia. However, given the description I'm thinking it might be something served on the Carribian side of GT.

            Search turned up a Nicaraguan dish served on Fridays during Lent that is called sopa de rosquilles, a soup with ring-shaped corn dumplings.

            Still haven't exhausted my resources for asking about Lenten food in GT. I have a few more people to ask.

            Hmmm ... maybe igauana on Fridays?

            "iguana was an important meat substitute during the colonial period, since the Catholic Church declared it a type of fish for consumption on meatless days."

            1. re: rworange

              The iguana thing reminds me of a Downriver Detroit tradition of eating muskrat during Lent

              Wikipedia: "Muskrats have sometimes been a food resource for humans. Muskrat meat is said to taste like rabbit or duck.

              In the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, there is a longstanding dispensation allowing Catholics to consume muskrat on Ash Wednesday, and the Fridays of Lent (when the eating of meat, except for fish, is prohibited). Because the muskrat lives in water, it is considered equivalent to fish.

              Lenten dinners of muskrat are therefore traditional in parts of Michigan."

              1. re: rworange

                Well, food-wise Lent/Easter is a bust in Guatemala ... no aisles of chocolate bunnies, Reese's peanut butter eggs, peeps, jelly beans ... no Easter ham, lamb, babka, egg dye kits, etc

                It is only salted fish. There are lots and lots of displays of salted fish. It seems to be a Central American thing. When I visited the Central Market in San Jose, Costa Rica it was stuffed to the gills with salted fish. I was thinking .. "gee, Costa Ricans must really love the stuff" and then I remembered .... Lent.

                I loved the sign at the Costa Rican market for "bacalao noruego legitimo" ... I guess there must be fish vendors trying to sell phony Norwegian salted cod.

                I won't even be trying any salted cod because the fish that was purchased went bad ... as in someone saying "did a mouse die in the kitchen?" Nope, it was the cod. More "exciting" salted fish photos on flickr


                My mother-in-law, a devout Catholic, is only eating plain chuchitos this week for Holy Week ... sort of a plain tamale. Today, Good Friday, no one is cooking in the house ... and they aren't even Catholic.

                According to this website a fermented fruit / grain drink called suchiles might be more common during Lent though it is served all year.


                I am noticing more suchiles stands during Lent ... and the same was true when I first moved to Guatemala a year ago. More about suchiles in this post


                We did have torrejas last night which the above link mentions. However, there seem to be few Easter-specific foods. Anything special for the season is just the celebratory food served at other occasions. Al I get is blank looks from Guatemalas when I ask about Easter food.

                What Guatemala lacks in food for the season, they certainly make up for in pagentry with processions, streets carpeted in flowers and buildings draped in purple cloth and decorated in pine.


                My understanding is that some have altars for Holy Week with fruit such as the unfortanely bad final photo below of a Semana Santa altar at a small restaurant. The fruit is eaten on

                Well, all that color is nice, but I miss the pagan excess of Easter in the US.

                For heaven's sake, Guatemalans treat Easter like a religious holiday

                1. re: rworange

                  rworange one Brazilian tradition of Sexta Feira Santa (Good Friday) and in some cases Semana Santa, but not the whole of Lent is eating canjica -- sweetened posole cooked in milk. I had forgotten about that because it plays an even bigger role in Festa Juninas, but some people as their sacrifice only eat canjica (and others make it just because of tradition) on 6a santa. I have had two types today, one with coconut and the other with peanut which was my preferred, but flavoring with both is common two (who knows, maybe tonight I will have that too). I almost flagged down the local horse-drawn raw milk vendor yesterday thinking of canjica, but by the time I see him again I think I will prefer rice pudding!

                  Shrimp is ridiculously expensive as demand is high and local fishing of it is closed, so we have been buying lousy shrimp from Bahia. Salt Cod was more reasonable, although I was only buying "Bacalhau Saite" which is a darker, stronger tasting product than "Bacalhau do Porto" (premium salt cod which is legitimate North Atlantic cod from fish which are larger than 3kg, mostly from Norway like yours, less expensive types come from the North Pacific but can be called bacalhau and Saithe, Ling, etc can't be called "bacalhau"). Here there are fishmongers and markets which try to pass the pacific cod off as Bacalhau do Porto, so probably the same thing happens in Costa Rica.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Great information. For a few years I attended Festa Juninas celebrations that the Brailians have in the SF Bay Area. I'll have to keep my eyes open for the posole at the next one.

                    Ah, counterfeit cod.

                  2. re: rworange

                    I don't recall salt cod being very common in Ecuador, though I noted that it is included in their celebrated Fanesca - a Holy Week stew featuring '12 grains'. In any case, bacalao points back to Spanish roots.

                    A lot of what you (and I) think of as Easter foods and traditions derive from pre-christian northern European spring celebrations (even the English word 'easter' is pre-christian). In the US it is a blend of English and German practices, plus other immigrants, and a lot of post immigration innovation.

                    Catholic (especially Spanish/Hispanic) focus is on Holy Week, especially Good Friday. Protestants have shifted more focus to Sunday, the Resurrection. Symbolically you can see this in the Catholic crucifix v. the Protestant bare cross. Protestants also dropped most of the Catholic fasting/abstinence practices. Eastern Orthodox give the two periods comparable focus, so the Pascha feast, which celebrates both the Resurrection and the end of Lenten abstinence, is well know for its lavish food spread.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Yeah, I miss the whole pagan part. It is surprising that with the huge German influence in Guatemala that none of the Easter traditions seem to have survied here.

                      Anyway, in a response about Semana Santa, there were some corrections and additional information by Antigua Daily Photo

                      " I don't think fresco de suchiles is a drink of Cuaresma or Semana Santa, it's more like all year long drink ... My mom asked today if we had already eaten pescado envuelto en huevo (dried fish with egg batter) and curtidos (pickled vegetables) which are the traditional food for the Holy Week. For dessert people have empanadas de leche with fresco de suchiles

              2. If it's Lent, it's gumbo z'herbes for the good folk of Louisiana. The greens you use can vary, but tradition dictates there's got to be an odd number of them. In Japan, tempura was developed for days of abstinence (quattuor tempora), which makes them especially suitable for Lent. In the Philippines, Lenten tables will often feature mung bean soup in seafood broth, though this is popular throughout the year as well. Fish empanadas also make a showing throughout the Latin world.

                Amongst Mexicans, one finds tortitas, little fritters smothered in a burstingly flavorful salsa, become plentiful during Lent with meals ending with capirotada, a Lenten bread pudding. In Spain it seems everything has bacalau, aside from desserts like torrijas or pestiños.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  I was just reading about gumbo z'herbes this morning! It was a new one on me and I'm interested in trying it this season.

                  Salmon patties make an appearance, as does potato and onion soup served with cheese and bread.

                  hot cross buns!