Traditional Nicaraguan Foods Eaten around Pascuas (Easter)

The word 'pascuas' carries the Old Testament sense of Passover, making the sacrifice of Christ's life a deliverance from a 'modern' sense of bondage, whereas the anglicized name 'Easter' is for the bunnies, IMO. (Druids, besides oaks, worshipped rabbits, I learned someplace or other.) It happens the first Sunday after Spring begins ('equinox' is near meaningless here in the tropics) in a new lunar month (begun with the full moon).

Every Friday of 'Cuaresma' (Lent) observant Catholics in Nicaragua eat sopa de queso (cheese soup). During this 46d period of penitence, meats from mammals (animals with hair) are taboo. Fish & fowl are OK.

Semana Santa, the week from Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday, same root Ramadan?) to Domingo de Pascua (Easter) with old traditional Catholics of the Nicaragua countryside is especially solemn. No leña is cut or gathered for cooking fires. 'Tamales pisques' (smaller than nacatamales, & usually unfilled, though some are filled with beans) are eaten with eggs or sardines. The mass for making tamales pisques is prepared by boiling kernal corn with ash (Southern US grits are made in a similar fashion, but using lye or KOH, which is what dissolves in water from wood fire ash).

There's a special sweet treat eaten, and offered to those visiting your home, during this holy week. It's called 'almivar'. Something of a tropical fruit cocktail cooked up like folk in Appalachia still prepare apple butter, slowly in a huge caldron. Stirring the whole while it cooks is something of a communal project, taking turns, into the night, telling stories around the small fire under the kettle. What goes into the pot? Jocote (the small plum-like fruit, sold everywhere these days, that Nicas crave; I find it too bitter) + mango + tamarindo + nancite (yellow to red, sweet, size of a green olive, with 3 'pelos de colito') + grocea (tiny, black, acidic) + papaya verde + pimiento olorosa (black, pea-size, aromatic & picante). And like apple butter, it's cooked up with cinnamon & clove. I ate some once, a cupful sold on the street in Ciudad Sandino (cost some 10 pesos), but it was too foreign to my palate. A dark brown, bitter-sweet syrup covering lots of chunks of cooked fruit with occasionally weird textures, 'almivar' may take me several more years here to grow accustomed to.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

a ha

Thanks for the post, been trying to remember the name of this stew for a long time; the version I've had also has jocote, I personally love the stuff and been trying to get my wife to get the recipe.

Expedition Nicaragua

...

"Almivar" - almíbar. Most Nicaraguans I know say they don't like it and all the kids of my acquaintance are among them. Here is a recipe. http://www.nicaragua-actual.info/almibar.html

The traditional Semana Santa soup in Carazo is sopa de rosquillas -- chicken soup loaded up with home-made, fried cheese-flavoured corn crackers. Now that I like.

thanks, but ...

I was unable to copy & paste their recipe to show my little woman at home.

A strange website - dot-info &c. - from the "Nicaraguan community in Costa Rica". At first blush, I thought --Are these folk turncoats or outlaws?-- Then I saw the banner "Yo vivo fuera de Nicaragua pero Nicaragua vive a dentro de mi." Once-poor Nicas trapped in the Tico money mills, I guess, having left their hearts ... donde 'el trabajo es su digno laurel' .. but pays much less.

I crave 'rosquillas', but can't eat too many - it's dense food!

I version I get is the same

although ``sopa de cuajada`` is the name here in the north, even though it is the same soup as elsewhere. almivar is like a fresh marmalade cooked in dulce with whatever fruit is available. Taste and texture vary considerably depending on the fruits and the chef(s). The one we had yesterday was short on mangoes and did not have the taste I prefer. Probably a scoop of this on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be the way to go!

The no-meat thing is per Catholic tradition, but it seems to me that US Catholics have largely phased this out?

Given the heat here in the misery season, I`m pushing for submarine sandwiches on whole wheat rolls but, as you can imagine, I am not getting very far.

"Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple. This has been my whole life's motto."

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Russian inventor

"Given the heat here in the misery season"

Ditto and I am getting no further along than you. I am campaigning hard for ceviche, guacamol and gazpacho. The answer: "Durante Semana Santa? No se acostumbra."