Family, Latino Family Traditions, Lent, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday foods, Mexican Vegan food, Roman Catholics

When We were Catholic-Lent

by J. Cobb
My mother is Roman Catholic. She baptized and raised us as such. We attended Catholic schools from first to twelfth grade. Everything you can imagine in the 1960’s-70’s era of Catholicism, in our Latino home, we had it: Virgen of Guadalupe, St. Jude, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus statues. We had an altar under the niche in the stairwell.Wooden crucifixes, lit votives, rosary beads, and brown scapulars dotted our rooms along with framed pictures of the Pope, JF Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez. The parish priest came to our house for dinner. That’s how Catholic we were in those days.  

Now, three of the four of us are Christian and the other doesn’t affiliate with any denomination. We don’t practice the Lenten season like we used to ‘back in the day,’ the Roman Catholic way. But my mom still asks us every Ash Wednesday “…where are your ashes.” Don’t you commemorate that Jesus died? Don’t you fast? Do you eat meat? Surely you give up something-chocolate? wine?
She’s legally blind so we could lie and say we had them but they smudged, but come on who’d lie on Ash Wednesday. For a couple of years we’ve explained that our Christian denomination doesn’t practice the marking of ashes on the forehead, but that soon leads to an argument. It’s her way (the Catholic highway) or no way. 
No use in arguing with my mother about religious doctrine versus biblical scripture. So we look for common ground. Yes, we assure her that we do believe Christ died and rose again, we can fast, we can make this a season of service, and introspection. “That’s good,” she says. “But what about the food?”
Yes, the Lenten food we made in the (Catholic) past will still be made during the Lenten season. But it’s not reserved for the Friday’s of Lent. The food has become part of our family tradition, except for the fish sticks.   
When we were Catholic we ate comida Cuaresmena (food of Lent): tortitas de camaron (shrimp patties), nopales (cactus), chile rellenos and Capriotada (bread pudding). We also ate a lot of potatoes, beans, and vegetable soup, but they weren’t half as good or as special as the one’s mentioned.  
Shrimp patties photo by
Capriotada-photo by Janie R.

This is my sister Debbie’s recipe for Capriotada:

sliced French bread( regular or sour dough), piloncillo (raw sugar cone), dark brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, raisins, walnuts, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, oil/butter or spray oil , and water.

Pour 6 cups water in large saucepan, stir in one piloncillo, 4 whole cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Use medium heat and bring to a boil. If you want it sweeter add 1/2 cup brown sugar. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add raisins during last 3 minutes if you want them softer. Discard cinnamon sticks before pouring syrup on bread.

Coat a 13x 9 oven proof baking dish with cooking spray, butter or oil. Preheat oven to 350.
Layer bread in pan and pour on syrup, layer with grated jack cheese and walnuts. Proceed with layering until the loaf of bread and all the syrup is gone. Bake for 30 minutes, if too soggy, bake another 15 minutes. 

Serve warm or chilled. For Vegan Son I use a non-diary cheese or leave out the cheese. Some people use only pillocillo, almonds, and Mexican Cotija cheese. It’s a matter of taste, just like it’s a matter of how you practice Lent. 

I’m hungry now, so I’ll post some of the other recipes at a later date. 

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