Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Feast of All Saints

Today is the Feast of All Saints. Traditionally, this day celebrates the saints who have gone on before us. Traditionalists would only celebrate the lives of the truly beatified and the lives of those martyred for the faith; we'd celebrate the more recently dead tomorrow, with the Feast of All Souls.  Many modern churches have expanded this feast day (or collapsed the 2 feast days) to become a day when we remember our dead.

I have recently become interested in the traditions of many Latin American cultures, which turn this day into something more festive, with sugar skulls and altars which celebrate our dear departed ones and picnics in the cemetery where stories about our loved ones are exchanged.

A few years ago, I came across a reference piece that talked about the triduum of Halloween, All Saints and All Souls.  Triduum means "three days," but I've only ever heard of it used as the time period between Good Friday and Easter.  It's so much easier to celebrate the Triduum of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls, when it occurs on a week-end.

On All Hallow's Eve, we celebrated the way that so many do, by putting candles in the Jack-o-lantern and handing out candy.  We also celebrated in less traditional ways, by sorting some of our books and our photos.  We looked through the old religious books that came to us from various family members.  Some we will keep; many others will go away.  My spouse looked at photos, while I looked at other books for one last time before sending them to new homes.

I have bought all the ingredients to make this delicious Day of the Dead bread*.  But will I do so this afternoon?

We grilled  a turkey breast yesterday afternoon, and this afternoon, we'll make a pot of turkey and dumplings.  It's the perfect way to remember my mother-in-law, gone from us 10 years.  If I had never known her, I'd have never made this kind of dish.  I suspect she made it as a way to stretch out food to feed her family--which included 2 teen-age boys--on a very limited budget.

I'll ask our backyard neighbor if she'd like some turkey and dumplings after I pick her up from the airport.  In this way, I'll honor my grandparents, both sets, who were always modeling this sort of hospitality.

Tomorrow I'll have to celebrate the Feast of All Souls more quietly as I head back to work.  I'll think about all the souls who no longer work where I do--but many of them are still alive, so I can be in touch with them.  I'll think of the friends I have who seem to have died rather suddenly in the past few years.

I like these holidays that remind us that life is short, and we need to get on with the work that we are here to do.  I am grateful that I come from many traditions (Christian, English major) that remind us that even if we can't get all the work done, that the work will go on, that death does not have the final answer.

*Pan de Muerto, “Bread of the Dead"

From Adapted by David Eck

BREAD: 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 T. whole anise seed
2 T grated orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs

In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling. [100-110 F degrees]

Meanwhile, measure out 1 1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, orange zest and sugar. Beat the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down and shape into 4 loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with “bones” placed ornamentally around the top if desired. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.

Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool and paint on glaze.

Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup orange juice to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush. If desired, sprinkle on colored or regular sugar while glaze is still damp.

You can buy anise seed in the bulk spice section of many stores where it’s very reasonably priced. You can use rapid rise yeast in this recipe which may cut down on the rising time. Keep an eye on it. You can also make this recipe in a mixer with a dough hook.

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