Category Archives: Latin

Día de los Muertos: A day to honor the dead, and enjoy delicious bread.

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Celebrated in Mexico and select locations in the United States, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday that takes place October 31st through November 2nd. Día de los Muertos is used to honor the dead, whose spirits visit every year, once a year, in a traditional and festive way.

Pan De Muerto (Photo by: http://www.mexconnect.com)

On the outskirts of Mexico, relatives of the dead travel to the cemeteries in which their lost loved ones are buried, and they have a picnic consisting of their loved one’s favorite foods. Grave sites are often decorated with toys for the children who have passed away, and bottles of tequila for the adults.

If you are familiar with any Día de los Muertos celebration, you’ll probably find yourself most familiar with the tradition of transforming a room into an altar for the deceased relative. This is a tradition that is practiced in larger cities in Mexico and in the United States.

Día de los Muertos Altar (Photo by: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com)

Having taken Spanish classes since my freshman year in high school, I’ve had many opportunities to learn the history and origins of Día de los Muertos. As you may or may not have guessed, I find the most fascinating part of the tradition to be the food.

Just as families provide for lost loved ones at their grave sites, they provide favorite foods for their loved ones at the altars as well. So when the spirits make their yearly visit, they will be pleased by the food and drink you have left for them to enjoy. You may see different foods finding their place among different altars, but one food I guarantee you’ll see every time is “pan de muerto”, or “bread of the dead”.

Pan de muerto is a sweet bread that comes in many varieties. Mexican sweet bread is a blessing from the baking gods, and is a food that is certainly worth trying. This simple egg-bread topped with sugar, is the staple of a rich, cultural tradition. I suggest making pan de muerto a to-do on your list of things to bake this fall.

In addition to the different foods you will find associated with Día de los Muertos, there are ceremonies and events that take place to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away.

Enjoy!

– Gabrielle Castillo

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Spanish Tapas: Not Your Typical Afternoon Snack

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During the hours between lunch and dinner, it is common to go searching for a snack to sustain one’s appetite for four to five hours.  Sometimes we satisfy our cravings with simple foods such as milk and cookies, fruit, or popcorn.

Albondigas (flickr.com/latasca)

In Spain, the hours between lunch and dinner are usually far longer, but the midday hunger is welcomed by several small dishes known as tapas.

Tapas are small appetizers in Spanish cuisine that can range from something as simple as aceitunas (olives with a red pepper filling) to something as distinct as chopitos (small squid, battered and fried).  Tapas serve the purpose of satisfying midday hunger and as food to enjoy while wine tasting or bar-hopping (a typical activity between work and dinner).

Last year, I made a trip to a Spanish restaurant in Fullerton, California, called Lizarran.  At Lizarran, I was able to have a unique food experience in learning that this was no typical afternoon snack.  While I was there, I sampled a few tapas, and my favorite was the Albondigas con Tomate (Spanish-style meatballs in tomato sauce).  It wasn’t the most adventurous of choices, but the Spanish-style meatballs introduced a flavor different from the typical Italian meatball.

However, I do encourage going out on a limb and trying the tapas that leave your mouth watering, or make you cringe just by the description.

The pulpo a la gallega graciously awaits your arrival.

¡Disfrute!

– Gabrielle Castillo

As Long As There is Food, There Will Be Food Trucks.

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What is it that makes eating food right from a truck so appealing?

Kogi's Jack and the Bean Burrito (kogibbq.com)

Gourmet food trucks have made their way onto the list of food fads that have transpired over decades. Their popularity has swept the nation and they have become a simple way to stop and enjoy interesting, gourmet foods with a fast food feel.

Back home in southern California, I’ve noticed the rapid growth of food trucks and food truck fairs, all featuring local trucks. The truck that arguably started it all was the Kogi Korean BBQ food truck out of Los Angeles.

Kogi is widely known for their Korean Mexican tacos (spicy pork, tofu, chicken, short rib), and is one of the first food trucks to introduce this fusion cuisine. Kogi took advantage of the rise in social media to attract visitors to their truck’s location via Twitter. Soon enough, it became customary to follow @kogibbq on Twitter, and find the truck as it would tweet its next stop.

The Lime Truck (foodnetwork.com)

This food truck craze has produced some very unique ideas for food to-go.

The Tornado Potato food truck, also out of Los Angeles, has wowed its visitors with a large, fried potato in the shape of a tornado, with various toppings.

My personal favorite is the Lime Truck, an Orange County native, just like myself. The Lime Truck has been featured on season two of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race”, and is known for its fresh, healthy cuisine.

You can find a food truck serving anything from cupcakes to sushi nowadays, and the way I see it, this food truck fad will continue to transform the culture of the way Americans eat food.

The greatest part about this food truck fad is that it will live on forever. As long as there is food, there will be food trucks.

Enjoy!

– Gabrielle Castillo