Out of the many Guatemalan dishes, this might be the most polarizing one. Fiambre is either loved or hated with a passion.
Fiambre is a traditional Guatemalan dish that is only served once a year during the celebrations of the Day of the dead, the 1st of November. It is the result of many years of Mayan, Arabic, and European mixture of cultures.
It is a huge saladlike cold dish. The main ingredients are a variety of steamed vegetables, a variety of hams, sausages, and cheese along with olives and sour yet spicy dressing that they call Caldillo.
Normally for families in Guatemala from the day they buy the ingredients to the time they serve it, the process takes around 2 days. The recipe is probably the longest I’ve ever seen, there is also no way to make this a small thing, even if you try, you will get a huge pot filled with fiambre. I swear I counted at least ten different kinds of veggies and seven kinds of meat.
The first part of this tradition is a trip to the market really early in the morning (6 am) looking for the freshest veggies and the best deals. Once they have bought everything it’s time to go home and start chopping and boiling the veggies, the sausages, and hams. When they are done with all the chopping and cooing they just mix everything up, add the dressing and leave it on the fridge for the night next day they serve it for lunch decorated with lettuce and more cheese.
There is a fun legend that comes from the colonial days of Guatemala that says that Fiambre was born by a maid’s accident this is how it goes:
There was a wealthy woman that wanted to celebrate her husband’s birthday with a delicious meal. So she sent her maid to the market to get all the ingredients. On her way to the market the maid found her boyfriend and started chatting, by the time she realized what time it was she had forgotten what was it that she had to buy. So she bought a little bit of everything she found and ran back to her boss home.
The woman was too busy with the preparations so again she asked her maid to cook dinner. Scared and not knowing what to do the maid did a type of salad mixing everything she had bought and served it with some cheese, onions and ham.
When they first saw it everyone was a bit scared of trying it but when they did they loved it. This happened a 1st of November and since then that family and many others have been preparing it for that day. And the maid kept her job!
In these modern days, it is a tradition that brings families together for the cooking and the eating. Some even share it with their dead ones by going to the cemetery and eating it next to where their loved one was buried. Some even serve some to the dead one as if he was going to eat some too.
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