Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ah, November or Bring Out Your Dead!

The Mesoamerica period was a period of different ethnic groups, but all of them believed in an afterlife.  Though all different, all believed that the afterlife was a many layered thing.  There were 13 heavens and 9 underworlds each in it's place with a separate god ruling it all.  The most favored final destinations were held aside for soldiers, mothers who died giving birth and the unfortunates who had been sacrificed to various other gods. This celebration ran for the entire month of August.

And then came the Catholic missionaries.    They hijacked this gala celebration of death and declared November 1st All Saints Day.  November 2nd was celebrated as All Souls Day.  A previous belief was kept  - that at midnight on October 31, dead children came back.  They weren't there to trick or treat, but for family to see that they were happy.

To remember their dead with love and grace, families and friends went out to the burial place, bringing food and drink (tequila without doubt) to spend the day with the spirits of their dead.  They tidied the burial plot, decorated it with such as spun sugar skulls, articulated skeletons, flowers, banners and ribbons.  There were special dishes, prepared primarily for these days.   All in all, it was a great fiesta and one eagerly anticipated as the days grew near to celebrate it once again.

Perhaps this celebration of death  results in the absolute fearlessness I have observed in Hispanic men.  Best example:  Puerta Vallarta - an Army pick-up truck in front of us with 8 soldiers perched on the sidewalls of the back of the pick-up on a road that was lavish with pot holes rocks, what have you and they were doing 60 mph.  Fearing an unlucky bounce and a soldier across our hood, we gave them plenty of room.  

Pan de Muertes is one such tradition - the recipe made me think of the Italian Christmas bread Panettone but without the dried fruits Italian chefs throw in.  It is also mildly seasoned with anise, cinnamon and sugar.

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
1 egg - the recipe called for two but never used the 2nd egg in the recipe - use your own judgement
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teas, anise seed
1/4 teas. cinnamon
2 teas. sugar

Bring the milk to a boil, take it off the heat and add the butter, spices and sugar
Mix the yeast with warm water and let sit 5 minutes.  Add the milk mixture to it.  Separate the egg and put the yolk with the yeast mix and save the white to glaze.
Knead this into 4 "ropes" and braid three of them.  Take the 4th and halve it making a ball on each end for "bones" Drape them in a cross, beat up the egg white and glaze and then bake the whole thing for 35  minutes at 350.

Please accept my best wishes for your dead.

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