Edible Culture

Day of the Dead: Recipes for a Celebration That's Very Full of Life!

By Gibson Thomas | September 01, 2013
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Sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos

As I wrote in the Fall 2010 issue of Edible Marin & Wine Country, I have always loved the festival known as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Originating with the Aztecs and other Meso-American peoples, these annual rituals remember and celebrate deceased loved ones. The tradition survived the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and their efforts to wipe out native rites, and continues to resist popular culture’s push to “modernize and homogenize.”

The celebration is carried on today by people from a wide spectrum of cultural backgrounds, including many descendants of these ancient peoples who now call the Bay Area home.

An important part of Day of the Dead rituals has always been the preparing of special foods. In addition to the dishes that were favorites of the deceased, traditional Day of the Dead foods such as chiles en nogadas, pozole and pan de muertos, often served alongside specialty libations, and skulls made of sugar or chocolate and beautifully decorated, are always part of the celebrations.

For the second year, Sausalito’s Copita Tequileria y Comida, the traditional Mexican restaurant created by restaurateur Larry Mindel and Chef Joanne Weir, will celebrate the Day of the Dead by offering a special menu and festooning the restaurant with festive altars, Day of the Dead flowers, paper flags and sidewalk art on November 2.

Chef Weir and Copita’s Executive Chef Gonzalo Rivera (California-born, but of Mexican descent, and a Michael Mina alum) have generously provided the recipes here, so you can prepare a special Day of the Dead feast for your friends and loved ones. And remember, it is traditional to set an extra place or two at your table—you just never know who might make an appearance if your kitchen is sending out smells that delicious!

There are many ways that you can join in this wonderful tradition in our area. For a wide array of Day of the Dead activities, check out the full calendar of events offered from September 29 to November 3 through the Petaluma Arts Center (PetalumaArtsCenter.org). If you know of other Day of the Dead events, please post them to the Edible Marin & Wine Country Facebook page for all to see!

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