Dia de Todos Santos or All Saints Day in Guatemala is spent with family, remembering the loved ones that have passed on. Many of these gatherings convene in the cemetery where the departed loved one is buried. The family will keep vigil through the night, chatting and spending time together as they reminisce about the lives of the dead.
Many consider the national dish of Guatemala to be fiambre, a platter of cold meats, sausages, cheeses and vegetables traditionally served at All Saint’s Day gatherings. Similar to an Italian antipasti platter, the variation of the platter’s components allows all the guests to pick out what they like. Even the departed spirits are expected to select their favorite morsel!
There are not many academic references as to the origin of the dish fiambre, but we can get a couple of clues from the word. Fiambre is derived from the Latin word frigus, meaning cold. Some believe the phrase “algo frio para calmar el hambre" (something cold to calm the hunger) eventually contracted to the shorter form fiambre.
Also, Dia de Todos Santos was a tradition brought to Guatemala by the Spanish Catholics. We can surmise that the dish was originally concocted by Europeans in Guatemala, who brought their charcuterie and cheese making skills with them to the New World. But the addition of regional indigenous ingredients such as pacaya palm blossoms gives Guatemala definitive ownership.
Fiambre can be elaborate or simple, depending on the budget of the chef. Many of the recipes I reviewed called for well over 40 ingredients, making quantities of 20 pounds! Luckily, here in the U.S., we have neighborhood delis that can sell you a variety of prepared cold meats, salamis, sausages, olives and roasted peppers in small quantities.
Note: In some Spanish speaking countries, fiambre is slang for “cadaver”
Meats and Cheeses