This past Saturday, Catholic Austrians celebrated the Feast of Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day) by honoring their deceased loved ones and paying their respects at the Friedhof (cemetery). Although I didn’t go to the cemetery myself, I was gifted a luscious loaf of Allerheiligen Striezel. I’d actually just learned about this bread from one of my students, a 60-year old mechanic who was eager to show me photos of the 10 loaves that he baked himself (yes, 10!). Sure enough, my mother-in-law’s version of the pastry made its way to our kitchen for the occasion.
Allerheiligen striezel is a braided bread made from flour, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, and raisins, enjoyed with jam and coffee or tea. My sister-in-law told me about her tradition of bringing the bread to her godparents every year on Allerheiligen. In other families, the godparents bake it for their godchildren.
When I was a teacher in New York, I used to do a cultural lesson on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos every year at this time. When possible, I would stop by a Mexican bakery in Sunset Park before class so I could let the children sample a piece of pan de los muertos. One warm, flaky bite of the striezel brought me immediately back to my old classroom. Thinking about the similarities in taste and customs, it’s amazing how I could go from Austria to Brooklyn by way of Mexico.
I think my Filipino grandparents would’ve also enjoyed it, may they rest in peace.