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The Origin of the Pan de Muerto

Day of the dead, a very lively tradition

Imagen de The Origin of the Pan de Muerto

We have recently been seduced by new methods and techniques in Mexican cuisine. That marks the arrival of new generations and the exciting discovery of new ingredients to take advantage of in the kitchen, but we must make an effort to preserve the traditional dishes that are a part of our identity so that generations to come know and experience the flavors that held our palate captive on meaningful dates.

Let’s talk pan de muerto!
Only the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) has that delicious spongy and sugary texture that makes your mouth water. Their shape and size might change but the flavor does not entirely change. The pan de muerto is Mexican and it is here to stay. 

The bread begins to make its appearance as early as August as bakers begin to test out their recipes in advance as it must not be absent during the Day of the Dead season for any reason as it’s placed as offerings on altars in each municipality, town, or city where the dead are honored. We get to enjoy it too as the week does not go by without us sharing and trying it. 

If you haven’t done so already, make sure to try it and to experience the Day of the Dead in different parts of Mexico, because in states like Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala or Michoacán there are different variations of pan de muerto such as different flavors, colors, with sugar, without sugar and there are even some stuffed with custard or chocolate cream.

The history behind it
It all began in 1519, when the Spaniards rejected all sacrifice and rituals of death, so they introduced the custom of making a heart-shaped wheat bread dipped in sugar that they painted red, to symbolize the blood.

According to José Luis Curiel Monteagudo’s book, Azucarados, Afanes, Dulces y Panes, ""eating the dead is a real pleasure for Mexicans; it is considered the anthropophagy of bread and sugar. The phenomenon is assimilated with respect and irony, it is challenged to death, they make fun of it by eating it.""

According to another source, Nuestras Tradiciones, ""the bread was prepared with ground and toasted amaranth seeds, mixed with the blood of the sacrifices offered in honor of the gods Izcoxauhqui, Cuetzaltzin or Huehuetéotl.""

What does pan de muerto mean today?
It represents a skeleton, where the top circular part is the “skull”, the ridges the “bones” and the orange blossom flavor to “remember the dead”.

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