A Spot of Sunshine

It has been RAINING for the past week or so. We?ve been indoors anyway thanks to everyone being sick, but since the boys started feeling better a few days ago, they?ve been dying to go outside.

Now, ordinarily, we don?t get rain this time of year, much less 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I feel like I?m back on the West Coast! Normal rainy season weather is sunshine all morning, then rain about 3pm and into the night. The past few rainy seasons have been weird and this particular one has been so dry that there are some serious droughts in the country and people are starving to death because they don?t have enough to eat.

Then you have this bizarre week. It always rains on Nov. 1st, always destroying the kites and causing people to run for shelter, fiambre in hand. However, there are usually many sunny dry days before that and afterwards, the rainy season officially gives up the ghost. Not this year!

Then this morning, I got up entirely too early thanks to my kids and when the sun started to rise, we were treated to incredible blue skies and beautiful sunshine for the first time in many days!! The boys were excited, but since they got up so early, Dante had to have a nap. Irving got in at four am, so he?s still sleeping as I write this. And, the sunshine is trying . . . . but I can see black clouds roiling just over Antigua, which means they?ll be hitting us shortly, butting up against the volcano and dumping all their rain on us.

I wish we?d had more sleep so we could have gone out and enjoyed even an hour in this beautiful weather.

All About Fiambre

A lot of people are wondering what fiambre (Fee-ahm-bray) is, so I thought I`d do a post on that.

Photo by cvander

Fiambre is the traditional Guatemalan dish that is eaten on Nov. 1 and 2, All Saints Day and Day of the Dead, respectively. You can certainly make your own, but the ingredients will cost you about Q300 (about $40), which is more than most people can afford. So instead, the majority of families buy a small plate and share it.

Everyone makes fiambre differently. For those families that do make it, it is something passed from generation to generation, so it can be hard to find a recipe, and every one that you do find will be different.

There are two main types of fiambre, colored (with beets) and white. I actually have never seen the colored one around here, but some people like beets, so I suppose it must exist!

Originally, people would bring food to eat or leave at the graves of their deceased loved ones. Over time, I`ve heard, all these different foods got mixed into one crazy dish . . . fiambre.

Here is what goes into a typical fiambre dish . . . more or less:

Meats: (Not all of these are in every recipe, but usually at least 5-6 are)

Ham, tongue, chicken, hot dog sausage, chorizo colorado (colored sausage), chorizo negro (black sausage), salami, bologna, yellow beef sausage

Veggies:

Beets (for colored fiambre), carrots, peas, chickpeas, corn, red beans, white beans, onions, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broad beans, pacaya (stringy bitter vegetable harvested from palm spears), baby corn, artichoke hearts, asparagus.

Cheeses:

Parmasan, cheddar, Mozzerella

Adornment:

Olives, red peppers, hardboiled eggs, radishes, capers, baby onions

All the veggies are cooked in chicken broth that includes mustard, vinegar, herbs, salt, sugar, and Worchestershire sauce. Then, when you order, the ingredients are carefully layered on a plate covered in lettuce. This can take a while, so you have to order ahead of time and go back to pick it up.

Some people add fish and sardines to their fiambre, but apart from that, it`s really tasty. You can pick out the pieces you want to eat and it`s a family affair. I`m really hoping to make my own next year, since I don`t like weird ingredients . . . like fish and stomach and tongue, in my fiambre!

Hope that answers any questions!

All Saints Day 2008

Ok, so we totally didn`t do what we were going to. First of all . . . this is how the family photos turned out:

I think we cover the skin tone spectrum quite nicely, don`t you?

We headed to the cemetery and the boys got really excited, even though they didn`t know why. Not that you`d know if from this shot of Dorian`s face . . .

They took off ahead, though.

Just inside the entrance to the cemetery,there is a woman who sells bags of peanuts in the shell. The boys, Dorian in particular, NEEDED to have peanuts. Here they are waiting for their bags. (no, Dorian doesn`t have rabbit ears, that`s a leaf on the wall behind him.

The cemetery didn`t disappoint. It`s a pretty small one, but still was beautifully decorated. We went early in the day, so not many people were there. By night, it will be packed and there will be candles and small bonfires lighting it up as people enjoy drinking and eating around their deceased loved ones.

This is where Irving`s grandparents and his aunt and uncle are entombed.

After the visit, we went out and had food on this little dirt road that runs in front of the cemetery.

The boys had Pepsi, a special treat, and Irving and I had the national beer, Gallo. We all shared tortillas with longanizas, a type of sausage.

Here`s a sign on the outside of the cemetery entrance. It warns those decorating the cemetery not to put water in the flower vases, as it could attract mosquitoes that carry dengue. It shows the life cycle of the dengue mosquito and says at the end that dengue can cause death, with a picture of a casket being lowered into the ground. Nice, huh?

Here`s a lottery table. They sell teensy rolled up strips of paper for one quetzal, about 13 cents. You can win one of the items on the table, rice, pasta, oil, etc. or an animal. Dante was fascinated with the chickens waiting to be drawn.

Slushies, Guatemalan style! This woman has a big block of ice in the middle of the machine and shaves off bits that fall down into a bowl. She then packs a cup full of ?snow?, she drizzles it with flavored sugar syrup or lime juice. Personally, I find these disgusting, but then, I was never a fan of those slushies you could get at 7-11 either.

Mmm, dulces tipicos! These are some of the delicious sweets made from fruit here. The brownish ones at the left are coconut candies, including fingers and logs that have been rolled in cinnamon. The red things are candied orange halves, next are baked coconut shavings and little bags of figs. Behind those, seed cakes and donut towers. The big tray on the right is full of pumpkin sweets, my favorites!

We ended up not getting any fiambre or kites. sigh. Next year, I really will make my own. The only person with any fiambre left was a woman who puts weird stuff in it and had doubled her prices from last year . . . the plate was still tiny!

All in all, it was a fun day with the family, though I had no less than three people tell me I was fat on the street, reminding me once again why I hide in my little house and never show my face.

Here`s one last photo of Irving and Dante, on our way back from the cemetery.