Happy Easter to all who celebrate, I'm taking the day off but leaving you with a bittersweet story from the LA Times about Lent, love, and a family recipe for capirotada.
Easter is this Sunday, which concludes my favorite food holiday: Lent.
Cuaresma for Mexicans is a time for reflection and penance — but it’s also 40 days of gluttony. Have fun with your fish fries, fellow Catholics: We Mexicans are gorging on tortitas de camarones, shrimp fritters served alongside grilled cactus and doused in a fiery chile de árbol salsa. On gorditas stuffed with refried beans and cotija, dolloped with crema. I especially loved my mom serving crispy potato tacos from a pan filled with bubbling manteca as if she were pulling dishes from the sink.
And the showstopper: capirotada, the layered bread pudding that’s the de facto Mexican dessert for Lent.
Every family bakes their own version; Mexicans on social media fight about whether it should include cheese (duh), nonpareils (of course), coconut flakes (maybe) or apple slices (no).
My mom’s is the best, of course. She uses queso añejo from her home state of Zacatecas for a salty touch, and sprinkles a judicious amount of raisins and almonds. The finished product doesn’t look elegant: bumpy and brown, and put into Tupperware once it’s cooled down. But her capirotada is sweet and earthy, crunchy (because of the fried bolillo slices she uses) and mushy (those bolillos get soaked in cinnamon-spiked syrup).
Cultura y amor in a baking pan.
The only thing I never liked about capirotada is its seasonality. From the time I was a kid, I’d beg Mami to make it throughout the year, a request she has always refused.
“Nomás se hace para Cuaresma,” she’d always scold — only for Lent, and that was that.
Once I became an adult, she took pity on me and prepped enough Lenten dishes to tide me over the year. I have enough goodies in the freezer to let me survive whatever comes after the Big One. And this spring, I dug through my freezer and found a small bag of capirotada, from a batch my mom made two years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever eat that one, though, because it’s from the last batch Mami ever made.
She is about to enter hospice, with weeks to live.
Ask your family for those recipes, guys. Keep them and use them when you get them. Pass them on.
Have a Happy Easter and I'll see you in the morning.