Fiambre: An All Saints Day Culinary Tradition Unique to Guatemala
Fiambre is a dish specially prepared by the entire family! After visiting the family gravesites at the cemeteries on November 1st, this traditional meal is enjoyed with the entire family at lunchtime. It is a blend of Spanish and local Maya culture and is prepared with great pride and dedication. Fiambre is unique to this region and has many cultural representations. It has been included in the Cultural Heritage List of Guatemala.
With more than 40 ingredients, preparation begins days in advance. Many of the cold ingredients including pork, meats, cheeses, fish, and olives are of Spanish origin while others are of Mesoamerican origin such as pacaya flower and baby corn. Each family has its own recipe and these develop over the decades. There are three additional kinds of fiambre: “blanco” without beets; “verde” for vegetarians, and “desarmado” with all of the ingredients served separately for you to mix the ones you prefer.
There are many legends of when and how fiambre was created. My favorite tells us that when families gathered at gravesites in the cemeteries for the custom of visiting their deceased loved ones, many took foods – like a picnic. A gust of wind came over the cemetery and all of the different foods were mixed together and shared by everyone present. Thus, fiambre was created and the tradition of sharing it with friends and family. No two dishes are ever the same.
Fiambre has also been compared to the colorful 15-foot kites flown in Sumpango and Santiago Sacatatequez on these days! It is a very special meal for Guatemalans, as families get together to prepare it and share the time together.