Feliz Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. Mexico’s answer to Halloween, this is the time the Aztec believed the dead visit their living families. The living welcome them back with skull art, from brightly painted faces to elaborately decorated skulls made from sugar (not bones — that wouldn’t be vegetarian at all).
Traditional Day of the Dead foods include tamales, a simple sweet yeast bread called pan de muerto (bread for the dead) and candied pumpkin. In fact pumpkin, a Mexican staple, is on the menu all season long. It’s naturally sweet and offers abundant amounts of fiber and beta-carotene.
The dead can’t get the benefits of beta-carotene, but we fleshy living creatures can. We take in its antioxidant properties, by eating orange, red and rosy-hued fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, plums, corn and that green exception that’s good for whatever ails us, kale. Even paprika, pepper, chili and sage, the rich, warming spices typical of Mexican cuisine, contain beta-carotene.
Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which supports the immune system and benefits the eyes, bones and skin. Vitamin A is where pricy retinol products come from. Pumpkin’s cheaper, and a far more delicious choice, especially combined with other native Mexican favorites like poblano peppers, with their gentle heat, and Mexico’s ancient staple, corn.
Corn symbolizes abundance, always a good thing, and while it may not rival kale when it comes to nutritional benefits, together with pumpkin gives you a double dose of fiber and beta-carotene. Choose organic when possible to avoid corn that’s genetically modified (most corn in America is GMO).
Day of the Dead festivities start Thursday at midnight and go to Nov. 2, All Souls Day. Whether you’re living or dead, you’re invited to the party. On Saturday, Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art NSU hosts its 13th annual Day of the Dead. Wear skull makeup, paint a sugar skull, have a blast. And don’t forget the pumpkin.