Remembering My Aunt on All Souls Day, El Día de los muertos
Although El día de los muertos is viewed by some as an extension of Halloween, and by others as a bizarre Mexican custom—luring the spirit of departed loved ones back for a night, often with an altar of their favorite foods, scents, etc., I view it as a grand opportunity to reflect on our loved ones who have died and to savor our wonderful memories of them. I think of my dear parents, my maternal grandmother and my maternal aunt, Ignacia Delgado. My three siblings and I, and later our children, all called her “Lobo” which means “wolf,” since she called us her “lobitos.” Below is the opening verse of an El día de los muertos poem I wrote for Lobo. She’s the star of my first published children’s book, A Birthday Basket for Tía, a main character in my family memoir, House of Houses, and she sneaks into my poetry books for adults. My daughter, Libby, and I are starting a new book in which Lobo will again be the star.
Come, fierce guardian angel
in black shoes. Let me whet
your appetite. I’ve gathered
all you loved, or still love,
for this altar, tiers of sweet
temptation, earth’s delights.
Visit me, if only for a night.
from “Ofrenda for Lobo,”
Agua Santa: Holy Water © Pat Mora
I meant to add a receipe for some Pan de Muertos
A recipe reproduced here by permission of our friends at Convivio Bookworks.
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
3 cups flour, unsifted
1. Bring milk to a boil. Remove from heat, then stir in butter, sugar and salt.
2. In a large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand
5 minutes, then add the milk mixture.
3. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture,
saving the white for later. Add the other egg, too. Now add the flour to the
yeast and egg mixture, blending well until a ball of dough is formed.
4. Flour a work surface very well and place dough in center. Knead until smooth.
Return to the large bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let dough rise in a
warm place for 90 minutes.
5. Grease a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Turn dough out onto
floured surface again and knead once more. Then divide the dough into fourths.
Set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining three pieces into ropes, all of about the
same length. They should be fairly hefty–not dainty ropes.
6. Pinch three rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on
opposite side. You should have one long braided loaf. Next, divide the
remaining dough in half and shape each half into a bone. Cross the “bones” in an
“X” shape and lay them atop the braided loaf.
7. Cover bread with the dish towel again and let it rise for 30 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the following:
3 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8. In another bowl, beat egg white slightly. When the bread has finished its 30
minutes of rising, brush top with egg white and sprinkle with the sugar mixture,
being careful not to get any on the crossed bones. Bake for 35 minutes, or until
done, at 350 degrees.
Canto Canto porque me duelo el llanto!
Sing Sing because it hurts to cry!
A soul cake, a soul cake,
Pray, good missus, a soul cake,
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Give us good alms and we’ll be gone.