It seems natural for us to mark happy times in our life with food and celebration. We throw feasts for weddings, parties for birthdays, showers for births. But lately I have been thinking about food and celebration in a different way – as a way to remember and mourn the loss of someone who has died. I’ve been researching the Mexican holiday “Dia de los Muertos”, or Day of the Dead, so that we can celebrate at our restaurant Esquina. I confess that I knew almost nothing about it before – other than that all of the skull images and skeletons wearing dresses kind of creep me out. Now I see that it is more about remembering those that have died – by eating special foods, building ‘altars’ of your loved ones’ favorite items, and in general…partying.
It seems appropriate that this holiday should fall during this time of year. As much as I love gazing at the beautiful leaves now gracing many trees in Lawrence, I know that part of the beauty they hold is that they are fleeting. Tomorrow they will not be the same and soon they will be gone – fallen to the ground. And like the anonymous bartender at Esquina who taped a crimson leaf to the wall behind the bar was doing, Day of the Dead gives us a chance to grasp and hold on to what is fleeting by remembering those who are gone.
On November 1st & 2nd Esquina will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos with food & drink specials and general festivities, but we are also remembering. In honor of my dad, John Krider, and my dog Bear, we will be making donations to two local organizations – Douglas County AIDS Project & Lawrence Humane Society. We will donate $1 from every dip sold and have an altar of sorts where customers can remember their dead with a donation.
If I were to make an altar for my dad, I would pile packs of Vantage cigarettes with cups of strong black coffee and chocolate croissants; for Bear I would place his collar, with the tags that made his distinctive jingle, with mounds of bacon – endless bacon for my Bear. Thinking of these items help me remember them- my creative, witty, and highly sarcastic dad; my faithful, athletic, and easy-going dog. With smiles and some sadness I remember, thankful that they were part of my fleeting days.