Some families in Cuzco still maintain the custom of fasting as a sign of support and humility before the sufferings of Christ. Once midday has come on Thursday of Holy Week the family breaks the fast with twelve typical dishes. Though the specific foods vary from family to family they have no meat nor rising agents.
These traditional Cuzco dishes are served in small portions. They include soups and stews based on fish, wheat, the indigenous tuber olluco, and corn. They also include traditional deserts such as peach compotes, rice pudding (arroz con leche), as well as rosquillas (crowns), sighs (meringues), empanadas, maicillos(corn starch cookies), etc.
This is an enduring custom. The twelve dishes are prepared on Holy Thursday since according to the religious calendar that is the day of Jesus’ last supper and it is remembered in the offering of the twelve dishes which represent the twelve apostles. But there are also many families that prepare these dishes as well on Good Friday.
In the morning many women throng the stores and markets of our city to get the products that they will prepare on these special days. The market vendors are ready to help, as these ladies go stand to stand where they can find the whole variety of Cuzco which then is prepared and offered in a mid day feast.
Perhaps the most consumed dishes are kapchi with broad beans, soup from lisas, a stewed fish (sudado de pescado,) fried fish, squash soup, and tarwi, among many others. It is, after all, up to each cook which dishes they will serve so long as they meet the code of twelve, contain no meat, and no leavening agent.
If the family does not wish to cook, they can join the crowd at the festival called Cusco Come Qosqo Mijuyin the Beer Garden of the Cervecería Cusqueña, where the twelve dishes are served as part of the offering of Cuzco’s traditional cuisine. These are holy days in Cuzco when families come together and share with each other while spending time in each other’s company. While eating good food, they can also reflect upon the significance of these days and the values they represent.