By Marta White
In 2016, Mariana and Ian McEnroe embarked on a singular idea: create a cookbook that celebrates the food of Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) along with its history, traditional Mexican cuisine, and its relationship to the culture of Mexico.
The fascinating evolution of Día de Muertos into the cultural folk tradition of today has deep roots in Mexico’s past. During the celebration, which starts on October 31 and spans November 1 and 2, people honor their dearly departed. Once a year on these nights, the souls, or “animas” of our beloved departed ones—those who, as we say in Mexico, are “ahead of us”—return to commune with the living relatives and to enjoy the pleasures that made them happy in life: food, drinks, music, laughter, stories, and the warm company of family and friends. The living gather in cemeteries, churches, and at home to prepare welcoming feasts and celebrations to make the souls’ long journeys worthwhile.
Starting with just a great idea and a dream, it took Mariana and Ian five years to create the cookbook, Dining with the Dead. Their endeavor began with a trip to Pátzcuaro in Michoacán, México, where they photographed and documented the local traditions and cuisine before and during the Day of the Dead. After four years of traveling to Mexico, creating recipes and designing the cookbook, it was finally finished.
The book was at the printer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything was stopped in its tracks. But even a pandemic could not deter them from their mission. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, they were able to get the cookbook printed.
The cookbook is not only the story of their experiences with the holiday and cooking with family, but also the story of their journey to Mexico to experience Día de Muertos up close and personal. And it’s the story of the delectable, scratch, made-with-love food that warms our souls on special occasions and all year long. In addition to 120 recipes including tamales, moles, delicious beverages, and baked goods like Pan de Muerto, you will learn how to make an altar and what to put on it, how to cut paper to make your own flowers and papel picado (the decorative tissue paper), and how to decorate sugar skulls.
Mariana and Ian also share their passion for cooking in their blog, Yes, More Please (www.Yes-MorePlease.com) where they share recipes and more cooking experiences. In Addition they also do freelance design and photography work.
“This cookbook has been cooking slowly and developing its flavors one recipe at a time. A labor of love, dedication, persistence, and it has absorbed almost all our time (and souls). We want to invite you to experience the rich culture and history at the source of the holiday. Our book is about food, mainly, but it’s also about honoring and respecting our departed loved ones, while forging new relationships and traditions in the process. The Day of the Dead is a very personal holiday. We cook for ourselves but also for the spirits, and we make them the foods that they loved here on Earth.” – Mariana & Ian