Monday, November 06, 2006

El Pic-nic de Los Muertos

The day after our night visit to the local cemetery, we returned, this time in our van, to join our friends for a comida at gravesite. Like so many events, it was both festive and sad. A local woman had died two nights before, and the interment had just concluded as we entered the cemetary. There was a huge mound of earth over the grave, and her family and friends were pushing cut flowers into the earth.

In the daylight, the panteón was of course much less mysterious, but possibly sadder. There were tiny graves of infants. One grave consisted of twin mounds. In it were two sisters who had died at the age of two. Another, somewhat larger child's grave was aof a boy who had fallen off a roof. Life is fragile.
Our neighbor, Sr. Orozco, was there, and he kept urging us to have a seat. I looked around and replied, "
Gracias, pero por lo visto, vamos a tener mucho tiempo para descansar." "Thanks, but by the look of things, we'll have a lot of time to rest."

In the midst of all this, Rosa and María had set up a charcoal brazier and had been trying to get a fire going for over 3 hours. The excess of charcoal used was blocking the airflow. Some relatives came, and when the men removed the surplus, the fire caught hold.
Rosa seasoned a stack of thin cut
bisteces de res in a plastic bag, using only a generous handful of salt, while María first washed and diced a bag of tomatoes, then diced then over a pottery dish balanced on her lap. Aurora, Rosa's 25-year old daughter, diced onion, and when the tears started to flow, she placed a cut stem of onion atop her head. I remember that kitchen trick from opening scenes of the movie, Like Water For Chocolate. Aurora then cut up two chiles perón for the "salad", while María opened a can of chiles jalapeños, seasoning the salad-salsa with the juice from the can and a few chiles were slivered and tossed in as well. A pinch of salt, juice from one lime, and we tasted it. Mmmmm ¡picante!

Now the carne was on the asador, but as they had neglected to bring tongs or any kitchen implements other than a couple of knives, we resorted to flipping the steaks over with our seared fingers after loosening them from the grate with a knife.

Tortillas were then reheated over the fire and a few unfilled
gorditas. Precooked frijoles were in several glass jars.
I'd brought 3 loaves of warm garlic-parmesan bread, wrapped in foil. They served as our appetizer. The heavy-duty aluminum foil wrapping became plates for a lucky few. We ate with our hands, tearing the salty, smoky meat into shreds and putting it into toasted tortillas. For a beverage.we drank the limeade Susan had made, and when that ran out, the Coke was opened.
When we were finished, the fire was overturned, and the trash we had gathered was burned. One might say that the whole thing had been feast and sacrifice with ritual burning of the remains at the end, but I wouldn´t go that far. It was just a picnic amongst the graves.

In the course of conversation, María told us in hushed tones that another neighbor had died the night before, and we were invited to the
velatorio. I turned down that invitation, for the two days had been interesting, even comforting experiences, I wasn't quite ready to stare death in the face at a wake.
Aurora and Laura both wanted to come to our house on Sunday to practice English, and we told them they were welcome. I much prefer to feed the living.

1 comment:

Michael Dickson said...

It is interesting to peer into funeral homes and see the little coffins awaiting babies.