Lisa Rogak’s book Death Warmed Over explores the world’s ultimate comfort foods: 75 recipes typically served at funeral ceremonies of different cultures around the globe. With Halloween (and Mexico’s Day of the Dead) just around the corner, Lisa joins ES to share a recipe for bread of the dead.
While there are many funeral traditions throughout Mexico, the best-known post-funeral celebration is The Day of the Dead, also known as All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd. Officially, it is the one day of the year when dead ancestors return to earth to visit. November 1st is All Saints’ Day, and traditionally, celebrations begin that evening, though in the daytime families tend to honor children who have died, reserving the evenings for adult ancestors.
On November 2nd, the family will spend the day at the cemetery where loved ones are buried. They clean the area around the grave, wash the tombstone, and place the deceased’s favorite foods around the grave. Huge flower arrangements are also common. Most families also build a small altar – either at the gravesite or at the home or office – and place food offerings and favorite items on it as well
Food is also a central part of Day of the Dead celebrations for those still walking the earth: Special black plates and bowls are only sold during the last two weeks in October and bakeries make hundreds of the life-size skull-shaped cakes with the name of the deceased written in frosting on the forehead. In fact, candy and desserts take center stage during the Day of the Dead, from chocolate caskets to candy skeletons. Indeed, like other cultures that saved biscuits and cakes from the funeral as a memento of a lost loved one, many Mexicans will hold onto these candy bones for years.