Day of the Dead/All Souls’ Day is an ancient holiday that exists in many cultures. It is a day when the dead come back to Earth to visit. In the Roman Catholic religion, November 1 is All Saints’ Day and November 2 is All Souls’ Day, but the tradition of celebrating the dead predates the church. In fact, it is a form of ancestor worship. In Mexico, the day is known as Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos and traditional foods include sugar skulls and bread. In Italy, it is Il Giorno dei Morti. In the Italian regions of Puglia and Basilicata, it is celebrated with a wheat, pomegranate and chocolate dessert. This recipe is a very old one, and most likely chocolate was added later on since it wasn’t available in Italy until after Columbus. I’m making it without chocolate, so that it is closer to its ancient form. In ancient times, the grape must was used as a sweetener. I used this Arvum brand. Italians also make bones of the dead, or ossa dei morti, cookies with each region having different ingredients. In Sicily, children traditionally got candy dolls and horses.
This is the Madonna from the grotto that we bought for my Aunt Nancy who passed away this week. Aunt Nancy and I were close, and I made this dessert to honor her and the ones we love who are no longer with us.
Wheat and pomegranate dessert
1-2 cups cooked farro
seeds from 1 pomegranate
2-3 tablespoons grape must
Mix all together to taste. (To cook farro, rinse under water. Put in pot and cover with water. Bring to boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Drain. You can cook more farro than you need and then just use some of it and save the rest to make salads or side dishes.) (To cut pomegranate, cut off stem, then score as if you are quartering it. Dip it in a bowl of cold water and then peel off each quarter and scoop the seeds out with your fingers. Discard the pieces of white pith. It can be a bit messy as the juice stains, but mine wasn’t very messy.)