Catholic Recipe: Almond Gruel
Also Called: Atole de Almendra
The memorial feast for all departed ones in a common annual celebration was inaugurated by St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, in 1040. Rome approved this practice, and in the fourteenth century the "Commemoration of All Souls" was prescribed as a liturgical rite for the whole Church, to be held on November 2. Pope Benedict XV in 1915 allowed all priests to say three Masses on All Souls' Day in order to give increased help to the spirits of the departed in purgatory.
In pre-Christian times people practiced the custom of putting food at the graves at such times of the year when the spirits of the dead were believed to roam their familiar earthly places. The month of November was one of these seasons, and the ancient custom was continued in the Christian era in honor of the holy souls. From this comes the practice of baking special breads ("All Souls' Bread") for November 2, and of bestowing them on children and the poor, as well as eating them at the family table. This custom is still widespread in Europe and South America. Each nation has its own traditional items of "Soul Bread" and peculiar customs of eating or distributing them.
Another practice was the cooking of meals called "soul food" (mostly beans, peas, or lentils) which was served to the poor together with meat and other dishes. In many sections of Europe farmers hold a solemn meal on the evening of All Souls' Day, with empty seats and plates for those members of the family who have died in recent years. The plates are filled with food and afterwards given to beggars or poor neighbors.
Add corn meal slowly to boiling water in saucepan; stir well. Add cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until slightly thickened. Add sugar, almonds, milk; continue stirring until thick. Remove from heat; add small amount of mixture to egg yolks, stirring rapidly. Return to saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Variations: Add 1 can (9 ounces) crushed pineapple to replace almonds. Add 1 pint crushed strawberries to replace almonds.Recipe Source: Catholic Cookbook, The by William I. Kaufman, The Citadel Press, New York, 1965