I have to confess: when I was a little girl, I was not a fan of my mom’s relleno. In full disclosure, I was a picky eater, and there was something about raisins and anything related to raisins I despised. Since this stuffing had raisins, prunes, walnuts and all these “things”, I avoided relleno like one avoids the plague.
Today, I can’t live without it, and I look forward to Christmas to make it and stuff myself with the aforementioned stuffing. You see, this relleno is different. If you have been to Ecuador and spent Christmas there, you know what I am talking about. This stuffing is a combination of sweet and savory; it is a hodgepodge of flavors that one would think they don’t go well together, but upon sampling, you realize, “YEAH! This is GOOD!”
Christmas in Ecuador is probably THE most important celebration of the year, followed by New Year’s, and the big dinner takes place on December 24th. Since living in the U.S., I have learned that families go all out for Thanksgiving. In Ecuador, we go all out for Christmas. At my home, we would begin the prep work for the Cena Navideña at least a week in advance. We stocked the pantry, organized the menu and made sure we had enough food for los abuelitos, tios, primos, sobrinos, amigos y conocidos – all the grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews, friends and acquaintances. It was not uncommon to have random people drop by to wish us Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo, and of course we could not NOT offer a little bit of Cena Navideña to these unexpected guests.