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Catholic Recipe: Fave dei Morte — Beans of the Dead I


  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups almonds, finely ground
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • baking sheet
  • Details

  • Yield: 5 1/2 dozen 2-inch-long cookies
  • Prep Time: 1 day, 2 hours
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 11+
  • Origin:

Pronounced FAH-vay dee MOR-tay.

Have mercy on all Christian Soules For a Soule-cake!

The customs that make All Souls' Day so strangely festive and somber go back to the early centuries of Christianity and even to the paleolithic traditions of the Celtic people. As noted in the preceding chapter on Halloween, Christian missionaries faced special problems in converting the Celts. The missionaries tried unsuccessfully to substitute All Saints' Day, November 1, for Samhain, their Celtic festival of the dead.

Four centuries later, the Church established All Souls' Day, November 2, partly to Christianize the season further. On this day the faithful were supposed to attend mass and pray for souls in purgatory. All Souls', however, ironically reinforced the widespread pagan belief that the dead returned to their earthly homes at this time of year. People often simply continued their ancient customs such as leaving out food and drink for the returning dead.

In England, "soulers" traditionally walked along the streets on All Souls' Day singing a song like the one quoted from. Soul cakes specifically baked for the occasion were given to them (for recipe see The Festive Bread Book). But in many parts of Britain, other foods and even money came to be substituted for the cakes. France, Italy, Switzerland, and other European countries maintained similar traditions of their own.

Mexico today offers the most exuberant All Souls' Day celebration anywhere. Drawing heavily on Aztec traditions as well as on Christianity, the Mexicans celebrate the day with colorful songs, poems, processions, and foods with the theme of death. Families erect altars at graveside and offer special foods for dead relatives. Amid exploding fireworks, the participants remember their beloved dead with gravity and joy.

These recipes, from several countries, are delectable reminders of All Souls' Day. In them, the joyful side of the day predominates over the spooky traditions long associated with All Souls'.

Colorful pageants take place throughout Italy on All Souls' Day, and children eagerly await treats such as the almond-flavored, bean-shaped cookies here.


1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add almonds, egg, flour, and lemon rind. Beat thoroughly.

2. Cover bowl, chill dough overnight.

3. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough. Shape like kidney beans.

4. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until light brown. Leave on baking sheet about 10 minutes; then cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Source: Holiday Dessert Book, The by Kathy Cutler, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1986
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