Dia de Los Muertos

First of all, check out The Old Foodie--here is a great post on Soulmass Bread today.

In Catholocism (in response to the pagan roots of Halloween) November first has become All Saints Day, and the second has become All Souls Day, a time to remember first, all the saints, and second, those who might be trapped in purgatory.

My favorite incarnation of this practice is by far the art and pagentry of Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico.   While many Americans think of the bright skull motifs and the crazy party atmosphere that sprouts in many American cities with a large Hispanic population, the meat of the holiday is when families make some of their best food, like tamales, mole, and rich, almost cake like bread, and spend hours making beautiful flower arrangements.  They then go and clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors

Pan De Muertos, recipe at Mexconnect.com
A lot of people I know look at that and say, "wow, what a creepy holiday".  American Halloween, though, gets all caught up on the wrong parts of death, in my opinion.  We are a nation terrified of death and decay, and so we by turns obsess or run from it.

This time of year, death is obvious.  The chill in the air and the trees loosing their leaves all remind us that the glory of spring and summer was a temporary event.  Children, in particular, notice death, whether we want them to or not.  My four year old has spent a lot of time this month asking questions about death and illness.  While I don't have any ancestors in the area, I'm taking her and her brother up to the old pioneer cemetery  today, and doing a gentle crayon rubbing if she finds a grave that she particularly likes. 

Take a moment to think about your loved ones who have passed on.  If you're religious, you might want to say a prayer or light a candle.  You could leave something small they liked out, with a picture of them.  Some people have a dinner at this time of year, with foods that their loved one enjoyed.  Since my grandmother grew up in Mexico, and loved the food, particularly enchiladas (in her case, with a very retro 50's tomato sauce), I can't think of a better way to remember her today.  

Grandma Trudy's (Retro) Enchiladas
Transcribed from photocopy of recipe

Enchilada Sauce

3 Rounding Tablespoons Butter or Margarine
3 Rounding Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (one dark and one light)  (Use more to make it hotter)
Salt to Taste
1 Quart Tomato Juice (Can use tomato sauce or paste with water added)  [Blog author note:  I do not recommend this]
1 Tablespoon Vinegar (optional)
1 Tablespoon Sugar (optional)

Melt butter, add flour and chili powder.  Stir two minutes over low heat.  Add salt, tomato juice, and stir.  When it comes to a low boil, simmer for 5 or 10 minutes.


1 ob. Hamburger
1 Medium dry onion(diced) [Blog author note:  my grandmother would always dice onions, then soak them in sugar water, dry them, and use them.  She never included this step in her recipes, but it made for a distinctive taste.]
1 Green Pepper (diced)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Fry above ingredients until well done.  Drain off grease. 

She does not specify, but to assemble, the following ingredients are used, so I listed them here:

Tortillas(she used corn)
Sour Cream
Chives or Green onions

Warm enchilada sauce in frying pan and place on very low heat.  Dip tortillas in sauce.  Place tortilla flat in baking pan and put on meat, cheese, sour cream(1 heaping teaspunful that has been thinned slightly), chives or green onions (finely chopped).  Roll tortilla and place in pan leaving the part that opens on the bottom so that it will not unroll.  When you have as many enchiladas as you desire, sprinkle heavily with cheese and pour the remaining souce over the enchiladas.  Place in hot oven and bake at 325 F or 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes.

More recipes:  candied sugar skulls, candied pumpkin, atole, etc.


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