For most American families, Halloween “treats” mean one thing: candy – mounds of bite-size morsels heaped into kids’ bags in exchange for that magic phrase: “Trick or treat!” Other cultures, however, celebrate All Souls’ Day, All Saints Day or Dia de Los Muertos (Nov. 1 and 2), from which our Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is derived, with different sorts of treats. Why not expand your family’s cultural horizons this Halloween by trying some of these traditional sweet treats from around the globe?
Here are a few ideas about food from Halloween around the world – about what people eat in other countries, and recipes to go with them.
Soul cakes (England and Ireland): These sweet, round cakes were traditionally given out in England and Ireland on All Saints Day or All Souls’ Day during the Middle Ages to those who went door-to-door saying prayers for the dead in what may be the forerunner to today’s trick-or-treating. They can be made with raisins and currents and aromatic spices like allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. (Soul cake recipe)
Fave dei morti (Italy): In Italy, All Souls’ Day may be celebrated with delicate cookies (sometimes white, brown or pink) – made with almonds and covered with sugar – called Fave dei Morti or Ossei dei Morti, whose name translates to “Beans of the Dead” or “Bones of the Dead.” (Fave dei morti recipe; Ossi dei Morti recipe)
Pan de Muerto (Mexico): This soft sweet bread is a Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition in Mexico, sometimes eaten at the grave of a loved one or placed on an altar. It may be flavored with orange zest or decorated with a teardrop or bones, perhaps placed in a circle to represent the cycle of life. Some people even mold the bread into animals, angels or other evocative shapes. (Pan de Muerto recipe)
Guagua de pan (Ecuador): These “bread babies” – sweet rolls molded and decorated to look like small children or infants – are part of the Day of the Dead tradition in parts of South America. Often made of wheat and sometimes filled with sweet jelly, they may be exchanged as gifts between families and friends or used ceremonially. (Guagua de pan recipe)
So what are you waiting for? Put down those miniature chocolate bars and start baking. These tasty treats will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but your appetite for cultural exploration as well.