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What Is Fiambre?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Fiambre is a traditional Guatemalan dish used to commemorate loved ones who have passed away. The tradition started in the late 1500s and is typically prepared immediately prior to November 1 and November 2, The Day of the Dead and All Saints Day. The ingredients of this dish vary among families, although it is usually served as a cold salad.

A common part of Guatemalan tradition, going back hundreds of years, is bringing the favorite foods of family members who have died to the cemetery during the Day of the Dead and All Saints Day. As time passed, the separate dishes merged into one, with all of the different family members’ favorite foods combined to create one very large cold salad. The recipe for fiambre is passed down through generations, occasionally altered to pay homage to recently passed family members. As the dish continues to grow, it often incorporates close to a hundred different ingredients.

On October 31st, families in Guatemala come together to prepare the dish for the next two days. In general, each member pitches in to help to cook or chop different ingredients; it would be next to impossible for one person to prepare the entire dish alone. Fiambre is then consumed for the next two days during the festivities. In many cases, it is shared with family friends or others celebrating in the same area.

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Although the meal is different among each family, there are four main types. Fiambre rojo is a dish that includes beets, while blanco is served without beets. Fiambre verde is comprised of only fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils; no meats are used in this dish. A desarmado is a deconstructed version of this Guatemalan dish; all of the different foods are served separately, much in the way they were in the past.

As this meal is consumed for two days, it is very difficult to serve any hot variants. Fiambre is almost always served cold, usually as a salad on several large platters. While the ingredients can vary drastically by family, it is very common for different types of sausage, deli meats, cured meats, chicken, and shrimp to be included.

Pickled vegetables, such as baby corn, olives, and cucumbers, are a common addition to the salad. Any number of vegetables can be included, and all of the ingredients are usually chopped into bite-sized pieces; this is one of the many reasons that it takes all of the family members to prepare the dish. Fiambre may be dressed as a whole, usually with different spices or a dressing made from vinegar and mustard. Each ingredient may also be dressed separately, thereby providing more depth to the dish.

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