Monthly Archives: November 2011

Food of Día de los Muertos

Filo making green salsa sopes for breakfast over an open fire. My absolute favorite! Thin and crisp, tangy and creamy at the same time. Mmmmm!

When we go to Mexico to visit family we very well fed. Mex’s sister’s cook for us and everything is always delicious. However, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a very busy time for them.

Preparing tejocotes for the ofrenda

The focus from October 30th to November 2nd the main focus is preparing food for deceased family members so we were a little out of luck in the “getting spoiled” department.  There are a number of traditional foods Mex’s family prepares for their ofrenda or offering for their deceased relatives. We tried to let our son participate as much as possible.

Our son loved helping his dad and Aunt Sofia peel tejocotes. Tejocotes are a small fruit, about double the size of a cherry. First the are boiled in water until their skins pull loose. Once they are all peeled, the tejocotes are simmered with sugar and cinnamon. After about an hour, the liquid starts to thicken and become syrupy. The finished product has an intense, delightful sweetness but don’t eat too quickly because the fruit has a small pit.

Simple green mole with chicken

Mole (MOH-lay) is often called the national dish of Mexico, with each region claiming their own version of the recipe. Stemming from the Nahuatl word mulli, meaning sauce, mole comes in a rainbow of colors; green, red, yellow, black and all shades in between. My family in Mexico says green mole is the only type made for the deceased spirits. Though mole has a reputation as being complicated, with up to 35 ingredients, this green mole is surprisingly simple.

The balance between tomatillos and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) is very important according to Filo. For every pound of tomatillos, use a little over one cup of shelled pepitas. First the tomatillos are roasted slightly in a pan with some vegetable oil (you could put them under a broiler for about five minutes as well) then they are pulsed in the blender with the pepitas and a couple serrano chiles until smooth. The sauce is simmered with some epazote and salt. That’s it. No garlic (gasp!).  It is a very well-balanced sauce. The nuttiness of the pepitas takes the tartness out of the tomatillos.

It is amazing to see my sister-in-laws spend hours each day, staying up almost all night preparing food to serve the spirits. Besides tejocotes and green mole, they make tamales wrapped in corn leaves, sweet squash that cooks over an open fire for two days, and rice pudding.

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Filed under Food, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexico, Morelos State, Recipes, Tetelilla, Morelos

Mexican family ties


Walking back with daddy to see the horse

Helping Tia (aunt) Ely and Tia Filo with the morning chores.

Although the heat during the day is not as oppressive in November as in the spring, our poor little boy was sweat more during each day than in the previous 17 months of his life. The room we sleep in has little ventilation. Due to getting up two hours earlier than normal, the morning nap time was reborn. Excellent! The room was cool enough for him to sleep comfortably in the morning but by his afternoon nap we had to strip him down to his diaper (and he still woke up with soaked hair).

Currently, he is going through a phase where he only wants his mother and that made it difficult in Mexico where he had an army of aunts and cousins who wanted his attention during our brief six day stay. The longest he lasted away from me was about 10 minutes… yes, that is for the entire trip. Despite the fervent distraction of the horse, and riding a little bicycle, he still started crying “mama” loudly across the yard. I felt guilty because I knew how much they wanted to play with him so I would hide out-of-sight for as long as possible, only coming when his crying turned to gasping sobs.

Ayelyn, our almost four-year-old great niece tried desperately to play with him. However, her insistent hand pulling to try to “direct” him towards certain activities typically led to more tears. Apparently, we need to have more play dates with older children so he can get used to being “bossed around” a little bit.

Making some soup with lime's off of the tree with Tia (aunt) Ely and daddy

Our son’s favorite parts of the trip seemed to be seeing the horse and pig, eating oranges off the tree, and making “lime” soup with the toy pots and pans. He also loved all the jars hanging on the kitchen wall, enjoyed eating papaya for breakfast every morning, and watched eagerly out the window every morning to see his Tia’s walking in the yard.

Helping daddy fix the flat bicycle tire was another favorite activity

Luckily, our son is flexible and adapted quickly to his new surroundings, learning all his Tia’s and cousin’s names. It was amazing for us to see how much Spanish he really has picked up from Mex, though Mex doesn’t seem to speak it consistently to him. Our son responded correctly to all the directions his family gave him. They were all charmed by his big smile, and seemed to think he looked more like Mex than me. This surprised me a little, since I figured his pale skin would make them assume he looked more like me. It makes me wish that there were pictures of my husband when he was a baby. His sisters must remember what Mex looked like and see similarities in their features. Our son definitely has his dad’s eyebrows but got stuck with my tiny eyes when he smiles.

Tio (uncle) Alejandro came over for a visit our last day in Tetelilla

Eating oranges fresh from the tree... the neighbor's tree actually. When branches lean over fences the fruit becomes fair game!

Tia Tollis and cousins Edgar and Katy trying desperately to distract our little guy

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Filed under Mexico, Morelos State