Fiambre, a very special Guatemalan dish that is prepared for November 1st. There are many different theories of how this very special Guatemalan dish began. One story tells of a woman whose husband died unexpectedly on November first and was buried quickly. After the funeral, everyone came to her house and of course, they expected food and refreshments. She and her maids quickly put together the dish with cold meats and vegetables they had in the house and mixed it all together. The dish was a complete success and the guests were so delighted with the dish they requested the name and recipe from the widow, so she came up with FIAMBRE.
Others say that the Fiambre was created by Guatemalans by the end of the XVI century as a special cold dish that was to be enjoyed during the Day of the Dead; fiambre was already mentioned in cookbooks at the beginning of the XVII century.
No matter its origin, the truth is that Fiambre is a dish that goes beyond the gastronomical aspect of it, it is a way to unite the family among the living and the dead, and it is very common to find people eating this delicacy at home or the cementary.
Currently, Fiambres are made in different colors: red, white, green, and some even make it black; the color depends on the caldillo (dressing) or the vegetables they have. Every family has their own recipe, and the most exotic ones have up to 50 different ingredients.
In most Guatemalan households you'll find someone chopping vegetables for their own Fiambre today...
Pigtails on the pillow, guacamayas overhead
Tortillas in her tummy, chickens under her bed
The jaguar hunching quietly, the wild boar grunting loud
Men hunting doe and fawn
Women weaving from dusk ’til dawn…
Maya history in dyed wool.
The Central American country of Guatemala has been called the “Waist of the Americas” because of it’s location in the continent. It’s fantastic topography varies from flatlands to jutting volcanoes (37 in all, 3 of which are active), from deserts to dense jungles.
Tucked under the canopy of one of these jungles we find the Maya ruins of Tikal, considered one of, if not the most, impressive and important architectural find related to the Mayan culture. This once affluent metropolis was also called the “Manhattan of the Maya” and “the cradle of Maya civilization” due to the sophistication of its temples, buildings and layout.
The Mayan people have not disappeared.
In Guatemala, they are very much alive and thriving, maintaining the majority of their traditions.
The millenial and colorful Mayan tradition of weaving and embroidery can still be seen in hand-woven hüipiles (women’s blouses) and perrajes (shoulder wraps). These pieces are carefully designed and skillfully decorated.
It may take anywhere from 4-6 months to finish one of these garments so they are usually not intended for sale and when they are, they can cost (and are well-worth) $100-$300 depending on the size and the region they are from.
So much of a culture is reflected in the food that people eat. In the case of the Maya, it is no different. There is as much variety in their food as there is in their environment. Corn tortillas, black beans, and a wide variety of hot peppers can be found in every region of the country and in a variety of recipes that have stood the test of time and are longed for by those who have emigrated to other countries.
Growing up as a third-culture kid in Guatemala, I was surrounded by all of these wonders every day of my life. Thanks to my parents’ work amongst many of the Maya tribes, I was able to visit many corners of the jungle villages, taste their food and sleep in their huts.
It is now time to share all of my experiences, past and present, with the world,
and I am so glad you can enjoy this journey with me!