Today is November 1, 2021

Published 4:13 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

Day of the Dead

Halloween costumes may go away right after October 31, but the celebration of the macabre and spirits do not get buried so quickly. El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated in central and southern Mexico during the early days of November. The day coincides with the Catholic All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day and incorporates many different traditions.

One of the more recognizable traditions is the creation of “calaveritas de azúcar,” or “sugar skulls.” These are decorative or edible skulls made from either clay or sugar, which are used in celebrations. The origin of these molded skulls can be traced back to the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Although the dead were already honored in Mexico, the Spanish brought their own customs, including molded decorations. Because sugar was readily accessible in Mexico and quite affordable, using it to make molds was a natural choice.

Sugar skulls are placed on an “ofrenda,” or “decorated altar,” that features candles, buckets of flowers, feathers, fruits, and much more. The name of someone who has passed away and is to be honored is written across the forehead of the sugar skull. Adherents of this tradition believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of deceased children can reunite and celebrate with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, adult spirits join the festivities.

In many indigenous or rural areas, the Day of the Dead can be quite expensive, with many families spending several month’s income to honor dead relatives. After food and gifts are shared, the celebration is taken to the cemetery, where tombs are cleaned and loved ones are remembered and spoken of. Music and games also may ensue.

The size and colors of sugar skulls vary. Small skulls represent those who passed at a young age, while larger ones are for adults. Sugar skulls are vibrantly colored to reflect life, which the Day of the Dead celebrates. Skulls may have glitter and be decorated with hats and bows.

Some sugar skulls are made entirely of edible ingredients, and very few are solely used as decoration rather than something to eat.

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World Vegan Day

If the wealth of vegan products now available in many mainstream supermarkets is any indication, more people are adopting vegan diets.

A vegan lifestyle is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, most notably in regard to diet. Adherents to veganism also avoid animal products in clothing and home as well.

The Vegan Society traces its origins to 1944. The main tenets of veganism have been to “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.” However, the one aspect most readily unifying is a plant-based diet that avoids all animal foods, including dairy, eggs and honey.

As anyone who has followed an alternative diet can attest, finding recipes that also match dietary restrictions can be challenging. But thanks to more widespread adoption of these diets, including veganism, it’s now easier than ever to adhere to diets that might once have been hard to follow.

Whether one is vegan or simply wants to include more plant-based items in their cooking, these substitutions can assist home chefs and bakers.

Egg substitutions

Substituting eggs can be challenging. Eggs interact with other ingredients in various ways, often helping to emulsify or bring together items into particular textures. About three to four tablespoons of applesauce can replace one egg in baked goods. Bananas also are great binding ingredients in baked items. Silken tofu can be used to create a vegan version of scrambled eggs, and this tofu can be used in many different recipes in place of eggs.

Milk substitutes

Scores of milk alternatives are now available on store shelves. From almond milk to coconut milk to soy milk or even hemp milk, consumers have many options. While they may not produce the exact same texture or flavor as cow’s milk, these products do quite well in various recipes.

Butter substitutes

Non-dairy vegan margarines will not contain any traces of lactose or whey in their formulas. Certain varieties may contain hydrogenated oils. Read labels to find suitable products.

Cheese substitutes

Cheese comes in various textures, from grated to firm to soft cheeses. While nothing in vegan cooking can completely mimic cheese, many new products come very close. Certain vegan cheeses can be made from nuts or dairy alternatives, such as almond milk and coconut. Similar fermenting processes give vegan cheese the bite associated with traditional cheeses. And other ingredients can help it to melt or crumble.

Meat substitutions

Replacing meat has never been easier. Various vegetables and fruits can mimic the texture of certain meats. Such is the case with mushrooms, which have a naturally savory, meat-like flavor. Beans and tofu also serve well in place of meat in dishes. Seitan is made from wheat gluten instead of soybeans, which can be advantageous to anyone who also has a soy allergy and wants to go vegan.

Thanks to the vast array of new products, those who embrace veganism will find they have many ingredients available to add variety and flavor to their cooking.

Preparing for Thanksgiving: Travel

Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and that’s welcome news to people who can’t wait to celebrate the holiday season with their loved ones. Though millions of people stayed home for Thanksgiving in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rising vaccination rates suggest the holiday travel season will be back in full swing this November.

Uncertainty spurred by the Delta variant may compel some people to stay home or delay making holiday travel plans. However, a recent survey from the vacation rental site Evolve found that 32 percent of travelers were not factoring the Delta variant into their travel plans at all. In addition, just under 47 percent of the more than 5,000 travelers surveyed months in advance of the holiday season indicated they would not consider canceling their trips until much closer to their departures. That data points to what could be a very unpredictable and busy holiday travel season.

With that unpredictability in mind, prospective travelers can consider these tips as they make plans to travel this Thanksgiving.

· Recognize the travel timeline might be different. The successful rollout of three COVID-19 vaccines has allowed life to return to some semblance of normalcy, but millions of professionals are still working from home full-time. Remote working has afforded people more flexibility in regard to when they can travel this Thanksgiving. The online travel and bookings experts at Priceline reported in September that the busiest travel day for Thanksgiving at that point was Monday, November 15. That’s a week and a half prior to Thanksgiving. A return to in person learning may limit families’ ability to travel so early, but travelers who can work remotely and don’t have to take school into consideration should recognize that the travel timeline has changed. That could make booking early flights more difficult and expensive than it used to be.

· Pack light. Travelers who intend to fly this Thanksgiving may want to avoid checking any luggage. Baggage fees can be expensive, but many airlines also have been forced to confront new issues that hadn’t been a problem in the past. For example, in June American Airlines was forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to pandemic-related staffing shortages. Staffing shortages can lead to confusion and last-minute cancellations, which may increase the likelihood that travelers’ luggage is lost or temporarily misplaced. By packing just a carry-on bag, travelers can ensure they have everything they need when they arrive at their destination.

· Check the weather forecast. Extreme weather has become the norm as the effects of climate change continue to become more apparent. Late November has not traditionally been a stormy season in many parts of North America, but it’s still important that travelers stay abreast of the weather forecasts on and around Thanksgiving. Knowledge of the forecast may spur travelers who are driving to change their travel dates so they aren’t caught in storms. Those who intend to fly may not have such flexibility, but it still pays to know the forecast. If a storm is coming, air travelers can give themselves extra time to get to the airport or even book rooms at airport hotels so they won’t have to drive to the airport during a storm.

The 2021 Thanksgiving weekend figures to be both busy and unique.