We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

El Día de los Muertos and Juliette's Tamari Pepitas

By Linda and Michelle

"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."  —J.K. Rowling                                
El Día de los Meurtos celebration in Petaluma, California. 
 By Linda
November 1, 2015—I thought it only fitting that I start to tell the story of my breast cancer journey-battle on this—El Día de los Muertos—the day celebrated throughout Latin America as the day the the veils of the world thin, allowing the worlds of the living and the dead to interact for a short time. This day is thought to be the time in which one just might be able to connect with those loved ones that have now passed through this realm and on to the next. We sisters have celebrated the holiday with gusto and reverence for many years now. 
   Each year we devote a Salvation Sisters' blog post to an aspect of the holiday. My sister Juliette outdid herself this year, by creating an amazing sugar skull that was featured on the current issue of Edible Baja—a regional magazine in Southern Arizona where my sisters both reside. Although I just remembered that I am forgetting about the year that she handmade such an amazing community altar to honor our sister Maria who died of a cerebral aneurysm at the age of 31 in 1992, leaving two young daughters behind. The Red Cross asked if they could take Maria's altar on a tour of the United States as part of a program to educate the public at large just how valuable it is to be an organ donor. Our sister's body helped over 300 recipient families to have better lives with the donation of her organs, bone and tissues.

Even celebrations of the macabre need sweet treats. 
   In my 58 years on this planet, I have experienced the death and disappearance of many that I have loved dearly. My beloved grandmother Maxine, my sister Maria and my son Joshua have all departed this Earth plane for the realm of the spirit, and each has moved on to the next great adventure. In reflection I should add that I feel it is significant in my present circumstances that I have been abandoned by several lovers—traumatic events that each left me feeling bereft, scarred and alone. They had all been relationships that I was convinced would stand the test of time, and yet they did not. In contrast though, I have known great and lasting love—a life-long bond with my remaining two sisters, Juliette and Michelle, both of whom have provided me with a solid connectedness—firmly anchoring me with the living.
   As I begin to write on this holy day, I wonder if I will have departed planet Earth for the next realm by this time next year? There is really no way to know, but I have already begun in earnest to try and wrest the reigns from death, and stay here among the living for awhile longer.
   I walked downtown this afternoon for a pedicure, thinking that I would not go this year to the procession for El Día de los Muertos—too macabre even by my liberal sensibilities. For the last seven months I have thought about death a considerable amount—an inordinate amount even. Enough already, I said to myself this weekend, no more dwelling on death and dying, and yet when I turned the corner onto Kentucky Street which bisects the historic downtown of Petaluma, I was greeted with a Mexican Día de los Muertos street festival in full swing, and I had to laugh, the joke being on me.
   "Welcome to the Día de los Muertos Celebration of 2015, Linda. It's quite possible that you might be the honored ancestor at next year's festivities." I said to myself.
   I can only describe it as a very sobering experience. However I did not weep, nor did I not feel sorry for myself. Instead I did what I am sure I will be doing until I draw my last breaths, or am just too weak to put the viewfinder to my eye—I pulled out my camera and started shooting.

Linda captured these photos in 2015 in Petaluma, CA.

My daughter Maddie is proud of her Auntie Juliette for making
 the sugar skull featured on the October 2015 cover of Edible Baja Magazine.
Three skeletons and a selfie-stick at the All Souls Procession 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.
By Michelle

   Last November my sister Juliette, her daughter Sonora and I attended the All Souls Procession in Tucson like we have in year's past. Linda had been living in Tucson with my husband and me since April of 2016. After enduring both chemotherapy and radiation, and almost dying, she had regained her mobility and was getting out and about with the aid of a walker. The oncologist advised that while Linda's breast cancer was not curable, it was treatable, and that the "virgin" cancer cells might take a wollup of a beating after meeting chemotherapy for the first time. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. After receiving treatment in February and March at UCSF, before moving to Tucson, Linda did rally over the summer months and steadily improved, albeit temporarily.

   In September, Linda was dealt an emotional blow when a brain MRI revealed multiple small tumors. With this gloomy news, Linda could not bring herself to attend the All Souls Procession, suddenly developing an aversion to a celebration that was once near and dear to her heart. When pressed on why she didn't want to attend, Linda snapped, "You wouldn't enjoy either if you were dying."
   Juliette replied, "That's the point, none of us know when our number is up. Día de los Muertos is about paying our respects to our loved ones that have died." They're dead. You're alive. Let's go remember them, together, while we still can. Then, that was that. There wasn't any more conversation about it. We went, Linda didn't.

  The irony is that Juliette, Sonora and I totally missed the procession. The three of us met in the late afternoon to mill around the starting point for the Procession. We wanted to see how participants were dressed and the late afternoon light afforded me the opportunity to take about a million photos without having to attach a flash to my camera. 
   The three of us eventually got hungry so we wandered around until we found a restaurant to get a bite to eat. We found a nice place to sit outdoors on a patio under a large tree that shielded us from the late afternoon sun. We ordered food to share from a food truck parked in the beer garden. One thing lead to another, one topic of conversation flowed into another, and by the time we picked ourselves up and walked to a nearby street on the parade's route, we discovered much to our chagrin (and embarrassment) that the Procession had already passed by.

Top photos, Juliette and daughter, Sonora. Bottom photo, Sonora and me.
Juliette decorated hats for herself and me to wear specifically for the Procession. 
   Not wanting the evening to end too quickly, we walked to Hotel Congress, which has been a popular destination in downtown Tucson since 1919. We were lucky, once again, to find seats on the outdoor patio under a large, beautiful tree with sprawling limbs. A talented band was playing for our entertainment, so we happily ordered a round of cocktails and effortlessly picked back up our conversation. I can't imagine the weather being nicer anywhere in the world than a desert evening in Tucson in the first few days of November. The majority of the crowd was dressed for the Procession. Faces decorated as sugar skulls illuminated the night under the dim yellow-hued lights strung above the patio and swagged across tree limbs. 
   And while I may not have time this year, due to recovering from a surgery (yes, it has been quite the year), to make sugar skulls or throw a sugar skull decorating party or make Sonoran Hotdogs or Dead Man's Party CookiesI will certainly without a doubt pay my respects to my all my loved ones, but especially to my dear sisters, Linda and Maria, whom have gone before me into the great beyond. I hope they will always feel my continuing love and devotion wherever they might be.

The scene on the outdoor patio at the Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson.

The hat Juliette decorated for me to wear at the Procession. 
Juliette's Sugar Skulls and Pumpkin Soup
El Día de los Muertos in Southern Arizona and Banana Salsa
El Día de los Muertos in Petaluma and Everyday Carnitas

Halloween Dead Man's Party Cookies (Traditional and Gluten-Free)

El Día de los Muertos in Tucson, Arizona: The All Souls Procession and Famous Sonoran Hot Dogs

The restaurants near the Procession route enjoy a brisk business in the late afternoon.

Juliette's Tamari Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
This is a quick recipe with only three ingredients and the flavor is amazing. The toasted pepitas are a perfect garnish for Juliette's Pumpkin Soup and are equally delicious sprinkled on salads and on cheese trays. I also like grabbing a handful for a quick and tasty snack. 

2 cups hulled pumpkin seeds
a smidge of olive oil; about one tablespoon
a little Tamari (for gluten-free) or soy sauce, or coconut aminos (for Paleo) about two teaspoons

a heavy 9- or -10 inch skillet; such as cast iron

The green pepitas are just beginning to toast over medium heat.
1. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Add a little olive oil and spread the oil evenly with a paper towel. You want just a thin film across the bottom of the pan. 
2. When the pan is warm, add the pepitas and stir constantly, until the seeds are puffed and golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. 
3. Turn off heat and sprinkle tamari over pepitas. A little tamari goes a long way. Stir to evenly distribute the tamari. Transfer pepitas to a plate to cool. Once cool, store the pepitas in a covered container at room temperature. Watch them disappear!

Juliette poses in front of one of many murals in downtown Tucson, Arizona. 

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