Day of the Dead Cookbook Combines Culture and Cuisine for a Spooky Feast in Borderlands | Arts & Life

AAnyone who has participated in a Day of the Dead parade knows how numerous and unique the festivities are. In Tucson, vacations are even more specialized. So, to capture the different facets of the Day of the Dead, a book would have to draw on many sources and cultures, and that’s exactly what a couple of cooks and photographers did.

In their new book “Dinner with the Dead: A Feast for Souls on the Day of the Dead”, Mariana Nuño Ruiz and Ian McEnroe bring together over 100 recipes and variations to show the complexity and history of one of the world’s favorite festivals. South West.

“Dinner with the Dead” is both a cookbook and a cultural journey, teaching about food and drink, but also about traditions, history and stories handed down by individual families. Research for the project took Ruiz and McEnroe across Mexico and they gathered recipes and history from libraries, local cooks, cultural historians, and indigenous families.

“The theme for the cookbook came from our editor Aaron Downey, who contacted us after stumbling across our blog post on Día de Muertos,” said Ruiz. “Because Día de Muertos involves so much more than food, we knew the book had to be structured differently from a regular cookbook. We therefore proposed a book which contained all aspects of the tradition; about its history, origins, culture and how Día de Muertos is celebrated today in Mexico.

Ruiz and McEnroe are currently based in Austin, but Ruiz grew up in Mexico and drew on his own family’s traditions for much of the book. The couple began their work in 2016 with a trip to “the source” of Day of the Dead, Michoacán in western Mexico. Ruiz is a cook and McEnroe is a photographer, making them a team to collect and document the many dishes and recipes for the party.

“For me, most of the recipes were like heirlooms,” Ruiz said. “In Mexico, each place has its own customs and celebrations. It’s very regional. For example, in Yucatan there is a special tamal called pibipollo which is specially made for Dia de Muertos. In Oaxaca, they use mole negro, and in Michoacán, they use tamales with seasonal produce. Each state has its own festive food and each family has its own traditions… For example, with mole poblano, there may be over 100 or 1,000 different recipes in the city of Puebla alone.

Their research involved attending festivities in several cemeteries and cities in Mexico, as well as the Latin American Collection Library at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It was also amazing to have the opportunity to learn more about my own culture,” said Ruiz. “The most important thing for us was to ask the people who lived the traditions. And that while we were there we were able to experience and learn more from them.

McEnroe and Ruiz worked on the book until 2019, cooking and photographing each of the recipes. Ruiz also included his personal stories related to food and vacations. However, as they prepared to print the book, the pandemic hampered the process. McEnroe believes the book would have been printed over a year ago without the delay. As a result, the publisher created a successful Kickstarter campaign to support the book, released on October 15.

“It’s hard to say which recipe is my favorite. But if I had to pick a few, I would say Yucatan cochinita pibil is my favorite savory recipe. It is a very delicious pork recipe with a unique seasoning. And the pan de muerto is my favorite sweet recipe. The pan de muerto recipe leaves you with something tasty that can be enjoyed on its own, or paired with coffee or cocoa, ”said McEnroe. “These are the ones I come back to often, and I think other people would do well to try them out at home.”

Ruiz hopes the book will help reconnect Mexicans currently living in the United States with their roots, saying that if they see a recipe in the book their families were making, it could help revive the tradition or maybe even enforce it. train new.

“I think the overall concept of the book is important to understand. It really is a journey through Mexican culture, ”said McEnroe. “It’s definitely a cookbook first and foremost, but it has been shaped and restructured to help a curious person take a journey into a culture that is beautiful. You can better understand how this tradition was born and how it resonates with the Mexican people today. “

“Dinner with the Dead: A Feast for Souls on the Day of the Dead” is now available from Tucson-based Rio Nuevo Publishers. For more information, visit

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