Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day and Fiambre

My post of today is not about patchwork, quilting or any other craft. Today I want to share with you a wonderful tradition and a food adventure!

There is in Guatemala a strong religious tradition by November 1st, the All Saints Day. Perhaps this tradition comes since the Mayan culture, based in their ancient spiritual believes, that have been mixed through the years with the Christian thoughts of the conquers, and so is by today.

By this day, the weather has turned windy and cold, properly to fly kites. But not any ordinary kite, no! There are some towns in my country like Santiago and Sumpango Sacatepequez, where people makes really Giant kites! Beautiful, vibrant of color, and really giant, they usually measure 4, 5 until 18, 20 meters of diameter! Groups of men meets usually once a week in the community hall to work together in order to create these stunning masterpieces.

With a strong but lightweight skeleton made with bamboo sticks, they make beautiful round, octagon or similar designs plenty of color, with tissue paper glued on a lightweight background. The day when they go to collect the bamboo sticks from the forest, is almost a holiday in the town: when the truck with the sticks enters in the town, people burn firecrackers and incense to bless the sticks in a very solemn ceremony, as the kites are their sacred way to communicate with their deads. These kites are released at the town cemetery, where people meets to celebrate the memories of their loved deads.

The tradition says that the kites are a way to send a message of love to the souls or spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of my own, so I share these for you to see the stunning, marvelous kites

More pictures here:

Don't you think they are an inspiration perfect for a quilt? I truly think so!

But I told you about a "food adventure", remember? That's another thing! Another tradition for this day.

Related with this custom of visiting the cemeteries and the relatives' tombs, arises the habit of this strange, but delicious food almost every family has for this day. It's called "Fiambre" that means "cold meat". The word "Fiambre" is related to any kind of cold meat, sausages, ham or similar that you can use for a salad or sandwich. And that is exactly what this is: A very large amount of salad with a wide variety of meats and pickled or canned vegetables.

There are so many stories about the origin of this meal, but all agree in the fact that it merged from the mixture of cold meals families brought to the visit of their dead.
Although the base is the same: some pickled vegetables, and some traditional sausages that are made only for this season, the taste is as different as every cooks' taste is.

Each family has their favorite meats and vegetables, so here are mine:

From left to right: shredded cabbage, beets, diced carrots, green peas, cut green beans, and cauliflower, ready to be carefully boiled until still firm. After that, this vegetables are mixed in a large (very large) bowl, and add: pickled small onions, olives, capers, baby corn, and any other vegetable to the cook's taste! Marinated with some good vinegar -I like a mixture of white and apple cider- salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. I usually boil the vinegar with spices for a couple of minutes, to mix the flavor. After that, mine looks like this:

That "strings" spreaded over are not noodles, no! It's "pacayas", a not very common vegetable but easily found in here, is slightly bitter but pickled tastes good.
Then, here comes the meats. Again, these are to the cook's taste, but the basic are shredded boiled chicken, roast beef, "Butifarra" "Black chorizo" "Red chorizo" "Extremenio chorizo" and "Longaniza", I added pepperoni and salame, all cooked and chopped,

then mixed with another vinegarete made liquefying the chicken broth -defatted- more vinegar -if needed- salt, parsley, mustard and the juices of some canned vegetables you will use for decoration, like asparagus, red peppers... the meal is looking something like this:

The green bowl is before mixing, the white at left is already mixed, and the small amount in the red bowl has only chicken, for my hubby who doesn't eat pork or sausages...

And the -almost- final product:

An individual serving will be about two cups of this strange but unvelievable very goooood mixture, over lettuce and covered with: small pieces of a variety of hams, cheeses, asparagus, radish slices, red pepper, slices of hard-boiled egg , and sprinkled with a special hard dry cheese, from the town of Zacapa. This cheese tastes like feta cheese, but dry.

The garnishes I used:

And this is how my dish looks:

Of course it is like a bomb, but believe me, it's DE..LI..CI...OUS!!! After all, it's eaten only once a year, for a couple of days. Or more, depends on the amount you made and how many family comes to dinner!

A beer or a cup of wine and "Salud" (Cheers!)

Happy All Saints day!


  1. What a wonderful tradition, I love the kites, they are beautiful, so much work has gone into them, I usually think men are not so good with colour as us, but Guatemala men obviously are!! Thank you so much for sharing x x x

    PS the lovely little purse is in use every day, and receives many comments, thank you x x

  2. Loved reading this post, Irene! Fantastic photos as well. I can see where you get your flair for beautiful colour!

  3. Thank you! And yes, almost every handcrafts in Guatemala are plenty of bright colors. With a few exceptions like carved wood ornaments and furniture, or some beautiful clay figures...

  4. Wow, it is allso happy and bright.

  5. I loved hearing about your tradition. We have Samhain, which I think has a similar concept as a day/night when the veil between the living and the dead is thinner or maybe lifted and the ancestors are, in some way, closer and more contactable. But this is not a mainstream celebration and Halloween seems to me to be much more superficial and doesn't really replace it. Yours looks like a wonderfully colourful festival for all the community. Your food looks delicious and those kites are just spectacular! I can imagine fabulous quilts made with those designs!

  6. Una hermosa y colorida tradición...Esos cometas están preciosos. Gracias por compartir las fotos, y gracias por tu visita a mi blog.

    Un abrazo fuerte desde COSTA RICA.