Friday, November 2, 2007

Dia De Los Muertos -- Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos -- everything seems to come together, past and future, forward and backwards, Halloween, Thanksgiving, All Saints Day... although some may view celebration of the dead as a somewhat morbid or depressing topic, celebrants from Spanish and Latin cultures view it as a celebration in honor of the lives of the dead. It is a celebration of the continuation of life, that life is a stage of existence and being. Or perhaps, in a more Anglo, existencialista perspective, Life is short, so lets look ahead, look around, and maybe be a little hopeful.

The celebrations vary widely; families visit cemeteries with ofrendas, or offerings, for lost friends and relatives, and may erect small altars in their homes, with Christian and personal symbols, and bring gifts and tell stories about the deceased los angelitos, little angels for children, or booze and sugar skulls for friends and relatives. Candied pumpkin (sound familiar? ) and pan de muerto, or bread of the dead . In Mexico, schools and even government buildings acknowledge the day with altars, since it is an important tradition in the country's history.

Short poems called calaveras, meaning skulls, may be written, mocking friends or relatives or the famous, recounting their lives, their foibles and their humanity.

George "DNA" Bush: Oh poor skeleton, the face of a calavera who's had one too many. You want to turn the Arctic and the rain forest into toxic cemeteries. You think honor and integrity are transferred to you because your moribund opponent lacks them and levity. Your epitaph: "Here lies the Texas grim reaper, the moral and compassionate executioner."

The above sample from www.voznuestrra.com/Americas

Here is an interesting link on making Mexican sugar skulls: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/mexicansugarskull/recipe.htm

A simpler recipe, for Pan De Muerto at Global Gourmet:

http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/egg/egg1096/panmuert.html
Pan de Muerto, "Bread of the Dead"
In celebration of Mexico's Day of the Dead, this bread is often shaped into skulls or round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.
Glaze
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
If desired, sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.
Days of the Dead

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Kensingston blog had a cool link with a nice graphic about a Day of the Dead show at SOBs tonite:

http://kensingtonbrooklyn.blogspot.com/2007/11/pistolera-day-of-dead-show-sobs.html

As Bob Dylan once commented somewhere, traditional music, and I guess by extension, traditional culture, recognizes that death is a fact, a mystery, but a fact, in a way that Modern Times may not...

Whatever you do, today is the Day of the Dead, remember how fleeting are the days...

--Brooklyn Beat

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