Monday, December 8, 2008

Hot Tamales!

I grew up in Arizona, several miles from the Mexican border. I passionately love Mexican food, and I cook it often. But I have a rule.

I will make tortillas. I will make enchiladas. I will make tacos and burritos and quesadillas.

But let's be honest--I am just too white to make tamales.

They are a mystery to me. I know they are made with masa, and I think that's some sort of corn meal but I'm not sure. I don't know what seasonings make them taste just right, and I don't even need to know. I just know they are oh-so-good.

There is something very Latin and romantic about knowing that generations of women stood in a kitchen for hours, using a recipe probably decades older than the oldest person there, hand-forming each delicious, corn husk-wrapped tamale. Sometimes I buy them from the store, but it's not the same. The work and culture and history that go into tamales made the way they're supposed to be made--by a matriarch and the younger women in her family who are learning from her--all somehow blend in with the meat and masa and spices to make something very special.

The girl I mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters (blog nickname: Little Sis) told me on Saturday night that they were making tamales at her grandma's house, and I could buy some if I wanted to. I've had her grandma's tamales before and knew there was only one way to answer that offer. When I saw Little Sis yesterday, I bought two dozen--one for the fridge, one for the freezer. We started on the first dozen yesterday...and I'm already excited to eat the leftovers tonight.

Eight dollars a dozen...a bargain price for the opportunity to experience a beautiful culture in such a delicious way.



Bobbi said...

Yum! Dave is always looking for a place to buy tamales. Looks like you've hit gold!

Our Scoop said...

Yum!! I am jealous :) I actually have made them before and they were pretty tasty :) But there is nothing like a "real" handmade tamale. I am super impressed that you make your own tortillas!!!!!!!! WOW

Lyndsay said...

Um, how about finding a way to ship me a dozen? LOL!

Isabella said...

I agree with Lyndsay - want to share? ;)

I love love love Mexican food. I lived in a group home run by a Mexican woman. She used to cook us tacos, floutas, and other things all the time.

Man, now I'm drooling. :)

Unknown said...

Hah! Love the "too white" comment. Whenever I go to pick up Mexican food, they inevitably miss something in the order. My (Mexican) husband always says it's because I'm a white girl! I've made tamales by myself once, and they are just incredibly time consuming. Not terribly difficult, but they do take forever. It's definitely nice to be able to buy them locally!

Sandra said...

I have NEVER had any kind tamale other than the ones my dad loved when I was a little kid that Mama bought in a glass jar. I hope I'll get the opportunity sometime to taste REAL tamales! :)

Eternal Lizdom said...

Tamales are one of my all time favorite foods. There is a little tamale stand not terribly far from my office... best restaurant tamales I've ever had. About as close to homemade as I've ever had. Might have to go tomorrow!

DiPaola Momma said...

YOU ROCK!! I'm from El Centro, CA orginally and being in MD is KILLING me in the Mexican food dept. Everyone here will swear by this place or that, I'll rush over with high hopes, only to be SEVERLY disapointed time and time again. In fact I just made Albondigas for dinner tonite! I haven't had the time to do Tams yet.. I LOVE chicken and chile verde just incase you are taking orders.. he he he

C. Beth said...

RainyLakeChick--I just need to find someone who can sell them to me regularly! This once every few years thing won't cut it!

Our Scoop--Tortillas are easy, but do take a little time since you have to roll out each one.... I usually buy them. :-D It's a lot harder to find good tortillas here than it was in AZ though.

Lyndsay--I am NOT sharing my stash!!!! :)


ElleBee--I'm impressed you made them by yourself! Ive heard they take all day.

Sandra--Oh, you definitely need to try the real things!

Liz--Mmm, now that sounds like a great location to work in.

DiPaola--I great up in Yuma, AZ--very close to your neck of the woods!

Desert Grace Boutique said...

This subject is near and dear to my heart. I make Tamales every Christmas. I even made a Squidoo
page about it which includes the recipe I use.

Becky said...

Oooh, I'm jealous! I used to work with a Hispanic woman who'd bring in tamales when we had a company potluck. Since leaving that job, oh, seven years ago, I haven't had an authentic tamale. I've never tried to make them myself, because it doesn't seem like it would be the same.

snakeriverwalton said...

okay, the green salad with low fat dressing and croutons with tamales? Where are the rice and beans!

C. Beth said...

Desert Grace Boutique--I looked at your page--wow, I can see why everyone says it's a lot of work! Your recipe sounds so good. The work is definitely worth it (as long as I'm not the one doing it, that is!)

Becky--I know, it's one of those things I don't even want to make myself! I just need to stay connected with the experts who make them so well!

snakeriverwalton--Ha!!! Very true. I was going for quick and easy--salad out of a bag, croutons, out of a box, and dressing out of a bottle was pretty darn easy!