Dia de Muertos-Day of the Dead-Family Altar and Offerings


The tradition of celebrating Day of the Dead dates from Pre-Columbian times, when the natives of Mexico focused a great deal on the manner in which someone died and rituals were created to commune with the dead and deities from those ancient times. As often happens when two cultures meet, the Spaniards combined the native rituals with their own beliefs which produced a festival that assimilated the ideology, religion, art, agriculture and all the ingredients of the existing culture and resulted in our modern “Dia de los Muertos”.
In 2003 The Day of the Dead, was named by UNESCO as a patrimony intangible of humanity. It is a symbol of Mexico’s cult to the dead and the fascination for the unknown. It is a remembrance of life and the necessity to keep our bounds that seem so impossible to achieve and maintain when our loved ones depart. It is of great importance to remember and maintain these traditions of a rich and colorful culture. Mexico has a lot of good traditions to share with the world…

In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated over three days starting October 31st. November 1 day of all saints, and November 2nd day of all souls. We celebrate the people who departed in hope that they might come back and visit to celebrate with us. And if they are coming all the way from a different dimension we better have some feast worth the trip!

Family altars are decorated with the remembered ones’ favorite foods, photographs, possessions,sugar skulls, drinks and flowers. Candles are placed to illuminate the way for a safe journey back home. This phenomenon it is assimilated with respect and irony, defying the dead as they laugh about her. With a sarcastic bitter-sweet humor Mexicans celebrate the ones that are no longer with us but with the biggest respect they built altars to commemorate them singing, drinking and praying. Now a days people also makes altars for their Favourite historical characters, artist, singers, anybody who means or have influenced in some way your life, or that you just simple admire.

Our family altar

This year our altar is dedicated to our family. Starting at the top, my great grandma Elvira Soto Herrera, my mother’s grandma. A beautiful and strong lady she was born in Jalapa, Veracruz and became a widower at early aged. She was a strong, honest and intelligent woman who educated and supported her five children with an exemplary motherly courage. One of her looks with those incredible eyes and you knew what she meant. She always used to received me with a big smile and tell me “Como está Mi Reina?” showering me with hugs and kisses. Her flour tortillas were legendary, as well as her refried beans with her not so secret ingredient lard! and her unique sazón. She just needed to make one phone call: “Im making tortillas” and the whole family would be there in a flash. Her white stove was a beautiful workhorse in her kitchen.

She loved to spend time with her canary birds that will warmly sing back at her, it was a remarkable symbiosis I was fortunate enough to presence. She faithfully blamed Noxema for her flawless skin. Her lavender eyes where unique and they will turn periwinkle or aqua green upon the color the garment she was wearing. Im almost sure that Bisa Elvira’s –they way I used to call her a short for Bisabuela– happiness and good appetite was do to the little bottle of Tabasco sauce she always carried on her handbag, always prepared to eradicate blandness. She worked at a flower shop until her late eighties, by conviction. She had a beautiful laugh and had a great sense of humor. I miss her and remember her dearly.

The next photo frame, the gentleman in the fedora hat is my grandpa Alfredo Ruiz Sandoval my mom’s father aka Tito Alfredo. He was born in Yahualica, Jalisco. At a young age he defied his family prohibition of becoming a bullfighter and with all his courage, his first “corrida de toros” was a success until his father pulled him out of the ring plaza in the middle of a bullfight, he had to fight a bigger bull. After his bullfighting dreams crashed, he travel to the North of the country and studied and work in USA. A few years later he become a successful merchant and restauranteur. For me its clear that Tito Alfredo, was a bullfighter by heart and although he never became bullfighter in real life, he always showed all his courage in each life faena by always helping and supporting his family, Ole Matador! I know he must be “Toreando Estrellas”.

Beside Tito Alfredo is Margarita Sanchez Guzmán my Grandma Margarita, my dad’s mother from whom I learned my love for cooking. This tall, strong and beautiful Lady from Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco also became a widower at a young age, she managed to support her seven children by herself through cooking for other families. Although I always remember being with her in the kitchen or going with her to el mercado, one of my favorite downtimes with her was listening to her old records of “Los Churumbeles de España” and Juan Lejido. We would seat at the sofa with a photo album and she would tell me stories about her dancing with my grandpa along her favorite song “El Beso”. Since I did not met my grandpa Guillermo, these stories were music to my ears. I will close my eyes and imagine them dancing.

With no doubt some of my happiest memories and moments with my Abuelita Mago were lived in her little kitchen. From my first given task in the kitchen: shelling peas to the magic moment when she taught me how to drive the “tejolote-pestle” in the molcajete and I made my first salsa martajada. Aromas, flavors, textures, craft, laughs, all the love she put in her cooking was nurturing me at a time when I needed the most. Her company and caring always will be with me. Thank you Abuelita Mago aka “bolita” how we the grandchildren used to call her for a short of Abuelita.

The first picture of the last portrait row, is Betsy Cleghorn-McEnroe, Ians’ mother. This beautiful Lady was born in a small town in Michigan. Betsy raised her four children out in the country. She had a gardener soul, learn how to grew corn, potatoes, zucchinis, green beans, strawberries, and all sort of vegetables to feed her kids. Quilter extraordinaire, loved to cook, craft, an insightful soul, funny and loving person. Every time we spoked with her on the phone we were left with a delightful peaceful feeling. She truly cared, she listen and gave you the most surprising advice, facts and interesting feedback. I have not ever met somebody that loved Christmas more than her. She would go crazy with the decor, dinner and presents.

Her Christmas trade mark:”the thrift shop present”. She will give the most funny-obsolete-thoughtful presents that made you believe you were born to own that funky object. Once you opened the present for some strange reason you were stroked by a feeling and inner voice that said: “you have been wanting this for so long, I just didn’t know it!”. Later in the year seeing that present hanging in the closet or on a shelf, will produce an spontaneous burst of laugh that will hug you. We miss Betsy dearly, and every year we remember her departure on her favorite day on Christmas Eve. We will always love you Betsy.

The following photo is my dear cousin Badir Saleme Ruiz aka “Dirba di-du” the nickname I used to call him by. This young gentleman was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Had the most beautiful green eyes I’ve ever seen!, along with a humble heart. Smart, intelligent and always willing to help. At a young age his ingenious nature led him to disassemble a whole radio and re-assemble it back again. Then he kind of did the same with every electro domestic object around his home. Later, intuitively he concocted a stereo-computer-monitor to function into a TV with a stereo sound. He also motorized his bike around, just genius! He would call me Mananiux, and fixed my hairdryer every time it burned out, until he figured out some sort of device added to the electrical components and fixed for good. That hair dryer last me about 12 more years!.

Dirba loved arroz con leche, enfrijoladas, quesadillas and carne asada with extra chard, grilled cebollitas and a good michelada. Dirba left us early, he was young, many more things to fix, circuits to create and left us all with his sincere smile. Thank you Dirba Didu for being so humble and generous. I miss you. Im preparing you arroz con leche, stop by!

Last frame in this altar is Manuel Nuño Sánchez, my father. He was born in Guadalajara Jalisco, a rebellious and curious soul. A loving person, that gave all his efforts always beyond his best. From him I learned to be extremely curious. To handle any homework or task I was given with extreme importance and abandon. From little school projects taking them to unimaginable heights to life attitude.

I particulary remember a time when I was in 3rd grade and we where asked to bring a model or a maquette representing the Discovery of America. Huge task for a 3rd grader. He took it to heart and made me read all about the history and asked me what impressed me the most? “I Said the Carabelas-Caravels” So he glanced at me and next day he brought home tree small scale assembling caravel model boats of Columbus caravans: La Niña, La Pinta y La Santa María. He taught me how to assemble them and we painted each piece and glued every single detail, we basted every cloth sail of each ship and assemble the maquette. It was a masterful class of dedication, patience and perseverance. Beyond belief. Almost no body believed I had made that. Teacher had to speak to him. So there is my first lesson of how to handle a task at every level. He had the best sense of humor, and made me laugh with his funny jokes. Sometimes we would laugh so much that our stomach hurt, just about simple little things.

My father was a free soul, he loved to read, eat and he loved fresh fruit. When mandarins were in season he would buy 5-8 kg and we used to seat down on the roof top or at a park and eat them all! We used to eat tomatoes sliced with a squeeze of lime juice, sea salt and Valentina and eat them with abandon. Freshly squeezed juices beets, carrots, apples, spinach you named it. Tacos, tortas de queso fresco, my grandmas pozole Blanco and Mole were some of his favorite meals. He liked to listen to Carmina Burana and Gregorian Chants. He made lamps out of old instruments like trumpets and horns. But most important of all, He wanted me to learn how to be daring, to be-my-free-self, he gave me wings. I remember him and miss him more often than I should.

Food Offerings

This year, we are treating our souls guest with this altar. We will receive them at the fist hour of November 2nd at midnight, I will set the food offerings November 1st around 10 pm and with for them to arrive. We will take a second photo and a video to incorporate in this post to include the food and how is placed in the altar.

The menu for the offerings will be: For my Bisa Elvira, her favorite food was mole poblano and “asado mazatleco”. This year Im making mole for her. For my Tito Alfredo his favorite food caldo de pollo or res (chicken or beef stock Mexican style, Birria or mole. This year Im making Mole Poblano for him as well.
My grandma Mago loved Frijolitos de la olla /Beans from the pot and a good molcajete salsa, so Im making a good bean pot for her to receive her. Betsy loved fish. so Im preparing cod with butter-lemon caper sauce and corn cob on the side. She also had a sweet tooth and Im sure she will love a piece of pan de Puerto with a cup of hot cocoa. For Dirba, Im making arroz con leche and some burritos of machaca-dried meat-and a cold beer. And for my father Im making tortilla soup, and planning on eating tons of mandarinas.

For all of them and for us I’m making Pan de Muerto, since its one of the most important elements that can not be missed on an altar. This bread resembles a skull with bones and represent each soul in transit.  Im sharing with you this link with my recipe for Pan de Muerto.

 

 On November second Day of the Dead we will celebrate with our departed we will have diner with them,

set up the food offerings and enjoy Pan de Muerto with a cup of hot cocoa.

As we warm and sweeten up the memories of the ones that are no longer with us.

It is a good excuse to make this delightful bread and maybe…

acquire a new family and tasty tradition…

Music is always a must when we are remembering, waiting and celebrating with our departed family.

Who better than Chavela Vargas to make the waiting more pleasant for our departed. I hope you enjoy it.

This song “Las simples cosas” The simple things,  talks about the important things in life, about love and time…

The next song “El último trago” The last drink, is about saying goodbye to a loved one…

View Post or View Comments 0

Carne Asada Tacos on 5 de Mayo, or 6 de Mayo or any other day…

Originally posted: 05, May 2015 | Revisited: May 3rd, 2018

Carne-asada-Tacos-Cinco-de-Mayo-Mexican-recipes_Yes,-more-please!

Ok let’s make something clear, 5 de Mayo nothing to do with the Mexican Independence which actually is celebrated on September 15th at midnight.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates The Battle of Puebla-La Batalla de Puebla, May, 5th 1862 in which the Mexican Army, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, battled the French forces. The Mexican Army was outnumbered by the French army which was almost double in size and well armed. Against all odds, the Mexican army won the battle. It had been almost 50 years since the French had been defeated. After the Battle of Puebla no other Country in the Americas has been invaded by another European military force…

There is a lot of pride in this important battle as you can imagine; maybe that is what Cinco de Mayo is all about, “Mexican Pride”… and well I won’t blame any Mexican-American who wants to celebrate such a win, or any American who wants an excuse for buying Mexican beer, tacos, and guacamole, as long we leave history aside from the matter… A little of general history to know the real origin of 5 de Mayo facts, does not hurt.

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 2

Tinga Verde de Res-Green Beef Tinga

Revisited: May 1st, 2018

Hello!, We are back, with an amazing recipe for Tinga Verde de Res-Green Beef Tinga.

Where have we been? Very busy with our project, giving it our best. We have learned a lot through this journey. Writing a book is not easy and it takes your all and a little more, and some more and right when you think you are done… it needs the last effort. Often it seems like you are never done. After nearly a year things are moving along and soon we promise to give you the full disclosure and we are certain it will be worth the wait.

As you can read our sanity is not 100% restored yet, but we hope to return to form and post a recipe weekly. I hope you had the chance to try previously posted recipes in the meantime and now you must be ready for the new ones!.

The focus of the blog has always been very diverse in nature and based on seasonal, local ingredients. I enjoy new takes and variations on classic recipes, like my Root-a-touille (a version of Ratatouille made with root vegetables), or pancakes made with nutty delicious buckwheat flour, our French onion soup using a crisp bagel, and even a refreshing vegan version of ceviche substituting cauliflower for fish. Recipes also include some fundamental techniques, from how to make beans from scratch, and the popular Chilaquiles Manifesto which is quintessential in my Mexican cooking heart. I think you will be seeing more Mexican recipes in future and the occasional twist on a classic and or borrowed inspiration from other cuisines. I have many suppressed cravings and new recipes I intend to share with you in the upcoming weeks and months.

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 0

Slow Wine Austin 2017

Slow Wine Austin 2017

Wine is a food product that can be produced through many different means. Even with the modern demand for wine creating mega-growers with hectare vineyards and highly modified production methods there are many that maintain a different standard. Yesterday we attended an event hosted by Slow Wine ( part of the Slow Food organization). What’s Slow Wine? A quote from their website sums it up best:

“Slow Food believes that wine, just as with food, must be good, clean, and fair — not just good.

Wine is an agricultural product, just like any of the foods we eat, and has an impact on the lives of the people who produce it, as well as on the environment – through pesticides, herbicides and excessive water consumption which are all commonplace in conventional wine production”

The same group lists initiatives:

“Through our guide, online magazine and international tour, we support and promote small-scale Italian winemakers who are using traditional techniques, working with respect for the environment and terroir, and safeguarding the incredible biodiversity of grape varieties that are part of Italy’s heritage.”

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 0

Leek Potato Charred Poblano Soup

Hello, hello! We are back in the saddle and hope you had a fantastic Holidays and a fresh start to 2017. We have been on a rollercoaster of change and highly focused on our book. Besides some adversities with Miss. Mildred (our stove), we are working on her retirement and the stove transition to make it happen. We are extremely grateful for all the great people who have supported us during this time, whether if it has been a word of encouragement, an e-mail, a phone call, or a donation funding for the new stove to come. To all of you, THANK YOU so much! On the other hand, It is taking a little longer than we expected, with permits and responses, but as soon we have the stove we will shout it out loud and proud!, and of course we will send you a photo.

In the meantime, dealing with our bi-polar weather and stove, soups have been my ultimate effort to save our dinners. One coil burner and a quick prep and 20-25 minutes in the kitchen, can yield the coziest, warmest, and most rewarding bowl of goodness to your table on any given dinner night. This classic velvety soup of leeks, potatoes, and cream has the flavor force of 1,000 horses. It always amazes me how so few ingredients treated with care can yield some of the best soups. Despite the classic version of this soup being one of my favorites, I’m giving this classic velvety soup a rustic and hearty twist. I find this soup much more comforting when its not blended all the way. So I reserved some sautéed leeks, and when it comes the time to pure, I used my immersion blender just a few times, enough to give the desired creaminess from the classic version, and leaving about half of the potato bites. These slight changes give great texture and hearty body to the soup. My irreverence, the addition of charred poblanos, I think is the best thing that could happen to this soup

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 1

Sopes de Pollo – Chicken Sopes

sopes-de-pollo chicken sopes_yes-more-please!

Antojitos Mexicanos…These are the “small bites” in Mexican street food. Go to the fair or the Tianguis (street market) and they are the perfect food for an impromptu craving. Sopes de Pollo – Chicken Sopes is one of them. Take corn masa dough and create a small fried or grilled pattie and you have the foundation to add any kind of toppings you like; shredded chicken, beef, pork, picadillo, chorizo, requeson~Mexican Ricotta, refried beans, mashed potatoes, calabazitas, poblano rajas, mushrooms, infinite filling possibilities. Top them off with a simple tomato salsa, shredded lettuce or cabbage, onions, radishes, crema and queso fresco or cotija cheese, and these little sopes, will be a highly crave-able meal.

In Guadalajara, Jalisco, where I’m from, these fresh corn masa patties are called Sopes de Masa, or pellizcadas which translates into “pinched”. Why? Once these masa patties are cooked, on the comal or fried, the edges of these round patties are pinched all around to create a border-leap that will hold the fillings and topping goodness.

This masa pinching is done by an experienced cook, a grandma or an aunt, cooks that have developed Moctezuma fingers, with digital prints deleted by the generational hard work in the kitchen. Since these patties are piping hot, you need this kind of strong digital numbness to achieve the results. Lucky you, this is not the only way to make sopes, I will provide you with an easy solution using two spoons. You get to keep your fingerprints.

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 2

Tempura Tex-m-pura Baby Eggplants

tempura-texmpura-baby-eggplants-yes-more-please

This might be the ultimate way to eat baby eggplants.
Besides the great classic recipes used for bigger eggplants, like ratatouille, caponata, Baba ghanoush, grilling, stuffing or roasting them( which I love) I feel these dainty two-three inches nightshade gems deserve a more delicate approach. I’m always looking for a contrast in texture when eating something so custardy and creamy like the way the eggplants become when they are cooked. The solution for my craving for these tender and sweet eggplants: tempura batter.
I know you have seen eggplant tempura at your favorite Japanese restaurant. They mostly use the large eggplants, which are delicious but not near as delicate in  flavor as these babies. Wait until you try this dainty two bite goodness.
These Tempura baby Eggplants are an exhilarating bite. Imagine a bite that combines a light and crispy fried tempura coat with a warm custardy buttery eggplant interior. A beautiful object to be dipped on a tangy, salty, spicy, sweet sauce. Yes, all in one bite.
Are you with me? Or did you lose it at tempura coat?…

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 4

Guajillo Pork Chops

guajillo-garlic-porterhouse-pork-chops-ingredientsjpg

When I saw these succulent Porterhouse pork chops at the butcher shop, I knew they were coming home with me. Porterhouse pork chops are the Cadillac of chops. Divided by a “T” bone, these chops combine some of the best cuts of the tenderloin and the loin surrounded by a generous and beautiful ribbon of pork fat and their double thickness these chops are as luscious and succulent almost like having almost a steak. Thinking of how to prepare them, I could almost hear them whispering “Guajillo and garlic” to me, so there Guajillo Pork Chops for diner it was.

Chiles are one of my favorite ingredients in Mexican cooking, especially dry chiles. They work miracles in the kitchen. Dry or fresh, these beautiful capsicum fruits are not only about spicy heat;
fresh chiles can brighten up and give a spicy-sass flavor to any dish along with a bright loud note. Dry chiles add a pleasant intense depth of flavor from smokey-sweet, to spicy and fruity, floral and fruity notes with a pleasant hint of spice. Dry chiles are a must have in your pantry.
Dry Guajillos are the perfect example I just described. Guajillos, when slightly toasted, fried or hydrated, bloom with the most aromatic, intense color and mild fruity heat flavor. This effect is irresistible and best used with pork because the meat’s flavor still shines through.

Continue Reading →

View Post or View Comments 2