Fiambre: A November Dish for All Tastes

By Diana Pastor

I have always considered the November dish fiambre an admirable representative of Guatemalan culture. I don’t say this because it utilizes regional or typical ingredients but rather due to the diversity and variety of colors that it displays. Up until now I have never found another food that contains so many types of meats, vegetables and condiments as Guatemalan fiambre.

Fiambre is a traditional food served on the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Difuntos (November 1st). Eating it is to dare to have a new experience. The recipe varies depending on the family, although there are some required ingredients. There are various types of fiambre, such as el tradicional (traditional), el dulce (sweet), el “divorciado“ (divorced), el blanco (white) and el rojo (red).

Fiambre tradicional – the most popular – is made with layers of different ingredients. The lowest layer is composed of various types of meats and certain types of cheese. Meats include browned chicken, turkey ham, pork ham, black or red chorizo, spicy pork sausage (longaniza), bacon, normal pork and turkey sausages, spicy salami (salchichón), browned pork loin, sardines and shrimp. One can also add various types of cheeses, but the most common are layered, dry and Kraft.

The second layer includes a number of pre-cooked vegetables: carrots, green beens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beets, peas, broad beans, olives and peas.

The third and final (upper) layer serves to decorate the dish: slices of hardboiled egg, lettuce, parsley, dry cheese, onion and radishes carved like flowers. To this one adds condiments, such as a bit of vinegar, salt and black pepper.

Depending on one’s methods, the number of layers can vary. Generally the vegetables and meats tend not to mix a great deal. For this reason, vegetarians and ‘carnivores’ can find fiambre unappealing and will search for the ingredients to their liking.

A curious fact about fiambre is that families almost always prepare it in huge quantities. They share it with their relatives, friends and neighbors. Some people make so much that it can eat it for weeks. Being a cold dish, it can be refrigerated conveniently and last a long time.

An individual portion of fiambre for purchase can cost Q.35.00 y Q.60.00. There are people who make it exclusively for sale. One of these people is Eluvia Soto, a resident of Colonia San Antonio in Xela’s Zona 7. She’s been making it for years for families and individuals and you will see her this Dia de los Difuntos doing the same as she always has together with millions of other Guatemalans.

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