Faith and Food, Mexican Lenten Foods

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Today is Ash Wednesday.

Lent (Latin: Quadragesima – English: Fortieth) is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. This event, along with its pious customs are observed by Christians in the Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic traditions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent

Whether you are Catholic or not, in some way you encounter the traditions, religious practices, and of course the food. With the Friday fish fry, enchilada dinners, and chain restaurant fish sandwich specials galore, inevitably you’ll participate in some way.  And for Latino Catholics, Lent is a serious occasion, starting during Carnaval, which ended last night.

In Mexico, many cities have Carnaval celebration of various sizes, but the biggest events take place in the port cities, with the largest of all in Mazatlan. Mazatlan’s Carnaval is said to attract well over 300,000 people, making it the third largest such event behind Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. Port towns such as Cozumel, Ensenada, La Paz and Veracruz are also excellent places to watch Carnaval festivities.

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The festival of Carnaval is celebrated as a last indulgence of ‘carnal’ pleasures that Catholics are requested to give up for 40 days of fasting during Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

In fact, the word Carnaval is derived from Latin, meaning take away or goodbye to flesh, and strict Catholics will give up meat eating during Lent. http://www.mexonline.com/carnaval.htm

And today on Ash Wednesday, Catholics all over the world go to church to receive ashes to publicly proclaim our intent to die to our worldly desires and live even more in Christ’s image, which we focus on during the season of ‘rebirth’ that is Lent (a Latin term for ‘Spring’).

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My parents raised our family strict Catholics practicing and acknowledging all traditional and religious fundamentals of the various holy holidays including, and especially during lent. I recall they disconnected the TV a few years during lent as our family sacrifice, and during holy week, you could be sure to find the Silva family in church Wednesday through Sunday.   The church we always attended was Our Lady of Guadalupe, and over the years as the Latino demographic has expanded, so have the Spanish services and and traditions. One of the fairly newer traditions practiced now through Our Lady of Guadalupe church is one that is commonly performed through Mexico and Latin America, the re-enactment of Jesus carrying the cross.  Often times varying from each church is either a group of men carrying the cross on a stand as in this image or they’ll take turns carrying the cross as Jesus did.

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Although the idea is to sacrifice a ‘carnal’ pleasure during lent, ironically there are favorite traditional lenten foods I look forward to every lent!  My family has integrated the traditional ingredients and foods during lent at our family business El Burrito Mercado.  el-burrito-mercado

In our restaurant and deli you will find prepared traditional Mexican lenten foods such as capirotada which is a unique bread pudding made with toasted bread, tortilla, raisins, coconut, nuts, piloncillo, & canela(cinnamon), there are various versions.

Capirotada
Capirotada
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Enchiladas de Mole o Chile Rojo
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Tortas de Camaron con Nopalitos
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Chile Relleno, cheese

Other traditional foods are Tortas de Camaron en Mole y Nopalitos. (shrimp fritters in red sauce and cactus and/or herbs).

Enchiladas of cheese or potato, chile relleno (cheese stuffed chile peppers), a variety of shrimp in stews or salads, and a variety of beans like lentil soup or pinto beans.

In our mercado (marketplace) you’ll find all the ingredients to cook at home like camaron seco (dried shrimp) for the shrimp fritters, bacalao,(salted cod), shrimp, pan seco (toasted bread) for capirotada, yucca (roots), plantain, and many more unique ingredients.

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There are only two holidays El Burrito Mercado closes for during the year, and those are Christmas, and Easter.   Plan ahead and either order specialty foods from our catering menu for your Easter dinner or shop our market for all your lenten and Easter ingredients.   Whatever you do, don’t give up Mexican food for lent, you’d miss out on some of the most delicious lenten delights!

Happy Fasting.

Milissa

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