The Friday of Sorrows – Viernes de Dolores, in Spanish – is observed by many Christians towards the end of the Lenten season, on the Friday before Palm Sunday, which on this year of 2021, is today, March 26. It is a very solemn day of remembrance of the pain of the Blessed Virgin Mary, inflicted upon her throughout the life of her son Jesus. In Spain, Italy and many of their former colonies, there are usually processions on The Friday of Sorrows (although most of of them have been cancelled due to the pandemic). In Mexico, many communities set up special altars to the sorrowful mother of Christ, and some people arrange them at home, as well; friends and fellow worshippers transit from one altar site to another, visiting for prayer, and are invited to partake of refreshments afterwards. Any variety of aguas frescas (refreshing beverages) would be expected, such as horchata (rice-based), Jamaica (hibiscus), and in some states, particularly Queretaro, Guanajuato and Zacatecas, a beet-based concoction with a plethora of chopped fruit, so traditional, that it is known as agua de cuaresma – Lenten water.
Lenten Water – Agua de Cuaresma
1 lb (454 g) beets
4 portions assorted fruit, such as apples, bananas, mangoes, a quarter of a small cantaloupe, etc.; washed before peeling or slicing
1 Romaine lettuce; outer leaves removed
¼ cup roasted peanuts, optional
Drinking water, as needed
¼ cup granulated sugar, or to taste
Wash beets thoroughly, scrubbing with a brush or clean sponge; remove blemishes, as well as tops and root ends. Place in a pot and cover with clean, drinking water (photo below, left). Cook, covered, over medium heat until tender, and easily pierced with a fork, between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on the size. Remove beets from pot onto a plate (reserve cooking water in the pot); after cooling for a few minutes, peel beets, and then slice into small cubes (photo below, right):
Allow beets and cooking water to cool down to room temperature. Transfer one cup of chopped beets to a blender jar, along with two cups of cooking water from the pot; blend until smooth (photo below, left). Strain through a mesh into a pitcher, then strain the rest of the cooking water, as well. Add more clean drinking water, as needed, to fill the pitcher. Add the sugar to the pitcher, and stir to dissolve, adjusting amount, to taste (photo below, right):
Place pitcher in the fridge until serving time.
For the fruit, a traditional combination is two apples and two bananas, along with the lettuce and oranges:
I decided not to use bananas, since I do not like their tendency to turn mushy when chopped. I had mangoes and a cantaloupe, so I used one apple, one mango and half a cantaloupe:
Separate lettuce leaves, wash and dry; chop and transfer to a large bowl. Prep washed fruits: remove and discard seeds from cantaloupe, peel and chop; add to the bowl. Peel mango, slice around the pit, then chop; add to the bowl. Slice apple into quarters, remove core, and chop; add to the bowl. Peel one orange, separate sections, and slice each section into small pieces; add to the bowl. Add peanuts, if using (I omitted). Slice the second orange in half. Add the rest of the chopped beets to the bowl and mix, squeezing the juice from the halved orange into the bowl, as well:
Right before serving, add some of the fruit mixture to the pitcher:
An alternative is to keep the fruit mix in the bowl, and fix individual portions, as needed, by scooping some fruit into a glass, then filling with beet water, as shown at the top of this post, and below:
Providing spoons is convenient, to be able to eat the fruit from the glass. There will probably be some fruit mix leftover, which is not a bad thing, since it is delicious on its own, too; it could even be called maybe “Lenten Salad”:
There are many misconceptions about the benefits and dangers of consuming beets. Deemed as a “superfood” my many athletes and dieticians, it has proven to be marginally beneficial as an energy booster and to alleviate muscle soreness, but there is not enough evidence to assert that it effectively reduces cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or risk of heart disease. Thelemites might listen to anecdotal stories and drink raw beet juice every day, but the high content of oxalates in beets should also be a consideration, especially for people with kidney problems. These compounds are water soluble, so boiling beets reduces oxalate content, but in this recipe, the cooking water is used, so a serving of no more than one cup (8 fl. oz, 250 ml) would be advisable.
FUN FACT: I love the shape and quality of my pitcher, as well as the fact that it was made in Mexico by Crisa™ (now part of Libbey™), a well known glass company founded in 1936 in the city of Monterrey, in the Mexican state of Nuevo León:
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