Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Saturday, November 3, 2018


Ofrendas at Waverly Chapel, Fairhaven Memorial Park
When I lived in Antigua, Guatemala, I'd place an order for fiambre about a week ahead of the November 1 celebration of All Saint's Day/The Day of the Dead. This traditional meal to commemorating the holiday, was a cold salad with up to 50 ingredients. It resembled an embellished giant chef's salad with vegetables, sausages, meats, fish, egg, and cheeses. The Guatemalans ate it either at home with a gathering of family, or at the tomb of a beloved. Several restaurants and shops took orders, since it took days to prepare at home...kind of like the USA Thanksgiving meal.
Antigua fiambre

My roommate, Kelly Presley, and I would always head for the cemetery to enjoy the carnival outside the gates and maybe sample cotton candy and watch children flying kites. Inside, families would festoon family graves with flowers, toys, and leave food for their ancestor's spirits. The food would disappear overnight, allegedly consumed by those hungry ghosts.

Since my late daughter-in-law, Mari Lou Laso-Elders, was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Orange, along with her mother, Maria Laso, I've attended three celebrations of El Dia de Los Muertos there, always on November 2, All Soul's Day.

Last night Maria and I arrived very early, and camped out once again in the front row. My beau, Frank Stern,had dropped us off and would return before the actual service began. We chatted about how certain holidays are celebrated in her native Cuba and how I learned about them in some of the Latin American countries I've lived in, including Dominican Republic and Belize. Each has traditions very different from Mexico, which celebrates with sugar skulls and skeletons. This year even Google featured brightly colored calaveras, something I never saw in Guatemala or the D.R.

At Fairhaven each year we've been delighted with the dancing of the folklorico troupe, Relampago del Cielo (Lightening of the Sky) and the harmonies of El Mariachi Zacatecas. This year the dance troupe featured just four women and two men. In previous years, I recall a few more males. Maria explained that folklorico isn't considered very macho with modern young males, but traditional families nonetheless still encourage their youth to learn the native dances.

Instead of feasting on fiambre, at Fairhaven each year I've enjoyed cups of hot chumpurrado, a  thick Mexican drink, prepared with masa de maĆ­z (cornmeal) or hot chocolate, and corn tamales. We're told that these refreshments have been provided annually by the owners of El Indio Tortilleria, a nearby Santa Ana eatery, in loving memory of their father.

Fairhaven sets up stands outside the chapel where attendees bring photographs of loved ones to be honored. Maria brought her framed photos of her late husband, her parents, and of Mari Lou. We recalled a couple of years ago when Fairhaven attempted an outdoor ceremony across the street and we'd had to rush to rescue the photographs when heavy winds and a deluge drove everybody from the makeshift stage. We agreed it's much more comfortable and secure inside Waverly Chapel.

"De Colores," played by El Mariachi Zacatecas
The crowds at Fairhaven arrived early this year. When we drove by Mari Lou's gravesite across the street from Waverly Chapel, there were no parking places left. Frank let me hop out and run over to leave my little bucket planter, embellished with one of Mari Lou's cherished "punkys," and filled with bright orange flowers, next to the bouquet Maria had left earlier. I had driven by the previous day and observed the park ablaze with autumn-hued bouquets, another  version of "fall foliage."

We would have left Fairhaven in festive spirits, pleased at the chance to pay our respects once more to the memory of loved ones, except for one odd concluding note. In his closing remarks, the Fairhaven spokesman announced that currently the mortuary was offering a $500 discount for purchase of  burial sites. We'd even noticed flyers outside  announcing this, placed next to the evening's programs. This seemed so inappropriate that all three of us began to trade morbid jokes  regarding this tasteless promotion of what sounded like a macabre Black Friday sale.

Kudos, though, to Fairhaven for providing this free community celebration for the seventh year. But please drop the sales pitch.

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