Los Dias de Los Muertos (Days of the Dead) food
When I worked in Mexico City I learned a little about the Day of the Dead. The truly hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the office, gave everyone small sugar skulls. I've had pan de muerto, a bread baked for Los Dias de Los Muertos.
However this is a family holiday so I don't know too much about what else happens. At a local 'Mexi-tessan' they sell supplies for "alters of recetas", which are set up in homes that have the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, as well as pictures and other items significant to the loved ones. This is a great article about that with pictures.
In this article about the day of the dead, they mention two other sweet breads ...
Does anyone know the difference?
Also reading through Chowhound recently there are mentions of other food. Someone mentioned bone cookies. That's all I remember about it.
Another post mentioned Mucbil Pollos, the traditional food of Mayan Day of the Dead. This are big flat tamale cakes filled with Chicken and Pork and baked in the Pibil style.
I've only seen little sugar skulls in the US, but the big department stores in Mexico City sell elaborate skulls, sort of like chocolate bunnies at Easter. Do people actually eat those sugar skulls. They always seemed like sugar Easter eggs ... decoration only. I bought some in for a Halloween pot-luck at work and watched, sort of horrified, while my boss (not Mexican) crunched them up one by one. They symbolism alone ...
So are there other foods out there? Are there traditional foods taken to the cemetaries at the picnics on that day?
Some cool pictures of alters
I was in La Paz (Baha California) for El Dia in 2000. People drove in from miles around to sell their homemade tamales. That might have nothing to do with the holiday, but it seems to be a typical thing to do at a fiesta.
Wandering around among the alters, I laughed inappropriately at the one featuring a large bottle of Absolut vodka...
Being Southern Mexican, my favorite part of Dia De Los Muertos is the Picnic and the flowers. Infact, I'm getting a BIG bouquet of BIG orange Chrysantemums this weekend for my dinner party! :) Here's the pictures of how Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated in Oaxaca...
Aside from Mucbil Pollo and Pan de Muertos, we didn't do really any other special foods. The event itself was special so we usually created our most complex dishes and typically what were my grand father's favorite (The deceased we honored), like Tamales Colados and Relleno Negro.
Also, there is a GREAT day of the dead book series (I have the one from Yucatan, which my grandmother quickly STOLE... LOL!!) that explores the holiday in different regions, South, Central and North and includes recipes... You can find these any any Chicano Bookstore. :)
Hojaldre/hojaldra is just a pastel made with flaky puff pastry (hoja means leaf).
Rosca/rosco/roscón/rosquillas/rosquete are breads/pastries that are in the shape of a ring.
Here in Spain it's all about buñuelos (little fried balls filled with flavored creams and other fillings) and huesos de santo (saint's bones--little marzipan logs filled with sweet potato, candied squash and among other things.
I've always wanted to go to Mexico for the day of the dead, but it's an impossible time of the year for us to get away...
The traditional foods are those associated with harvest.... pumpkins, squash, squash blossoms, corn etc., Ultimately... you want to present your subject's favorite foods & drinks so that they can have an afterlife feast!
It is celebrated slightly differently in various parts of the country. But overall, families storm the cemetaries at night, set up the altars & have an all night feast with their "dead" loved ones... prayers & singing are usually a vital part of the celebrations. Also... Marigolds are the flower of choice for altars.
My favorite of all Day of the Dead celebrations is the one in Patzcuaro, Michoacan:
Visulize thousands of candle lit canoes descending on Patzcuaro in the dark of the night, from dozens of villages around the lake.