Guatemalan Fiambre - Gastro Obscura

Prepared Foods

Guatemalan Fiambre

This 50-ingredient salad is for both the living and the dead.

Every November 1, on All Saints’ Day, Latin American families and friends unite to celebrate the lives of the departed. At their loved ones’ grave sites, they tell stories, recite prayers, and leave flowers and candles. In the evening, the living share a meal, often in the graveyard, among the dead. The party makes sure to leave food and drink behind for souls who have worked up an appetite.

Fiambre generally refers to cold cuts in Spanish, but in Guatemala, it’s All Saints’ Day’s signature dish. The story goes that visitors once brought dozens of small plates to the cemetery, but eventually started assembling one giant concoction, served cold. Made with an average of 50 ingredients, this colorful salad includes ingredients such as shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, salami, cheese, pickles, pacaya flower, sardines, and beef tongue. Families come together days in advance to purchase, pickle, grill, and dice, then make a cohesive dish by marinating everything in vinaigrette for at least a day. 

While Guatemalans pass down their own family recipes, the massive salad is designed to offer the deceased a smattering of options. Common variations include a vegetarian version, an unmixed platter that allows diners to hand-pick their ingredients, and rojo or blanco—renditions made with or without beets. “Who knows what the dead want?” one celebrant explained. “With fiambre, they can pick their favorite things.”

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