Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is my favorite Mexican holiday. Less about the scaries and more celebrating life, it’s a day that puts a surprising focus on food in particular.
For those who haven’t heard of this holiday or just aren’t familiar with the celebration, here is an extremely brief rundown:
Dia de los Muertos falls on November 1 and 2; at the core of the holiday is the idea that the dead are not gone forever. On this day, families decorate altars with photos of people who have died. Along with their photos are various items meant to engage each of the senses. When it comes to taste, what you put on the altar can vary depending on family traditions and of course the person you are honoring.
Familia Kitchen, an authentic treasury of Latino/a/x family recipes and “abuela-cooking” experts, names Pan de Muerto, Calabaza tacha and tamales as some of the more traditional altar offerings. Pan de Muerto, as described by Familia Kitchen writer Arianna Hermosillo, is an “egg-rich, spongy bun flavored with orange peels and oils and topped with sugar and bread strips made to look like bones or a skull.”
Besides my personal obsession with sugar skulls and their beautifully unique decorations, I’ve always liked the idea behind Day of the Dead: not even death is permanent. For this one time of year, someone’s favorite foods could bring them back to life. Some people even go to the cemetery and have a nice picnic with the spirits.
This got me thinking, in a very non-morbid way, about what people would put on my altar after I’m gone. What food represents me so well that it would rouse my spirit from a year-long nap and get me into a picnic mood? My first thought is pickles, no question. But I wouldn’t call one jar of pickles enough for a picnic. Traditional Mexican sweet bread would definitely be on the table along with donuts, soup (maybe ramen) and a well-stacked sandwich.
So my question is: What food would be on your altar? What food would bring you back from the dead?