Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's tamale time!

This month's In Focus theme-traditions-really got me excited!  Which one was I going to bore you with share with you!  Would it be spring bluebonnet searching? or how about summer beach fun? I know, fall wearing a college team shirt of a college you didn't even attend on game day!  no, that's not the one, the one I will share is our annual tamalada!

Tamalada, roughly translated, means tamale party!

Tamale, or more correctly tamal, means wrapped.  They are made of meat, cheese or vegetables, encased in masa (a dough usually made from corn) and steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper (like banana leaf) or a corn husk that is discarded before eating.  They have been made and eaten, by people in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC.   They were a portable food used by armies, hunters and travelers.

And they are good!

Tamales are also a comfort food in Mexico, eaten regularly and served on special occasions, festivals and celebrations.  This time of year, all the grocers, in my neck of the woods, are stocked with tamale making supplies and all the Mexican Markets have their ordering schedule posted so you can get your fresh tamales before Christmas.

Mexican families traditionally have a tamalada every year.  Family members would gather together for a day of laughter and story telling and problem solving and tamale making.  Everyone got to take home several dozen tamales, some good stories and all world problems were resolved!

A tamalera is a person who participates in a tamalada.

I am not Hispanic or have any Hispanic relatives.  I have lived in the Southwest all of my life, mostly in Texas where we forego the fruitcake and nix the nog in search of a taste of a tamale at Christmas time!

Many years ago, I began making tamales by myself in early December.  I would make 3 or 4 dozen.  1 dozen for Christmas Eve dinner and the rest for the freezer.  Making tamales by yourself is hard work, very time consuming and pretty boring.

Then, one year, several of my friends and I decided to get together to make tamales!  We would talk and laugh and make tamales!  It was the most fun!  It still took a long time but the time would fly by!  It was so good to be with my friends!

Then my family started asking me why it took so long to make tamales.  I tried explaining the process to them.  They all boasted that "they" could turn out twice as many tamales as we did in half the time.

OK, you're on.  The Owens Tamalada was born!

Our tamaladas are usually on a Saturday.  This year we are scheduled for December 15.  Since I am the queen head tamalera, I will gather the corn husks, masa and prepare the fillings prior to the day of the tamalada.  On the day of the tamalada, when the tameleras arrive, the table will be covered with old tablecloths and towels, the fillings and masa will be in bowls, the corn husks will be soaking, the snacks and beverages will be waiting and the movies will be queued!  

We always watch Christmas movies while we talk and snack and drink and joke.  We start with "Christmas Vacation" (everyone's favorite) then "The Grinch" (kids favorite) then "It's a Wonderful Life" (my favorite)  Riley participated for the first time when she was 4 and she did an outstanding job!  Sophia sat at the table with us for the first time last year!  She is only 2 now but I bet we can find some way for her to participate this year!

As far as their boast about being faster, they do get the job done pretty quickly.  By the time "It's a Wonderful Life" is on, everyone has found a blanket and a spot on the couch.  It is usually just me still awake, watching the movie and steaming the tamales.

And looking out over the lumps and bumps that compose my wonderful family.

I love them so.

I still participate in the tamalada with my friends too.  It's not important to make the most tamales or the most perfect tamales, what's important is spending time with the people you care about.

And did I mention how good tamales are?

In the spirit of traditions, I want to invite you to join us for our first Holiday Card exchange!
Here's how it will work-
If you would like to participate, email me ( the following information:
your name
your address  (if you live outside the US, we would love to have you participate too!)
your email address where you would like to receive the list of participants

Starting today, November 15, I will collect names and addresses of anyone interested in participating,  you sign up to participate by emailing me the above information.

I will continue to collect everyone's info through November 30.  I will email the complete list to everyone on December 2.

Please send a card to everyone!  If you don't care to send a Holiday Card, send a nice card of your choosing.  Add a short note, your contact information such as your blog or twitter etc. if you want.

Please try to get your cards in the mail by the end of the week after you receive the list-Friday December 7.  That way you'll be sure that your recipients will receive their cards by December 25!  It allows time for International mail as well!

Then sit back, enjoy the season, and look for happy surprises in your mailbox!

Any questions?  Email me ( or leave a comment!



heyjudephotography said...

This is great Linda! It sounds like so much fun. And now you not only get to make tamales with your friends, you get to make them with your family too. I love the fact that your family were the ones who pulled themselves into the tradition by making it a competition! (Your photos here are fabulous too!)
The 1st Annual Focusing on Life Holiday Card Exchange! Woohoo! Sounds like fun! Good job Linda!

Deanna said...

Gathering with friends and/or family to create delicious food is such a great tradition, what a spirit of community. I have an Italian friend that makes ravioli every Christmas holidays with her family, a tradition that is dear to her heart. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful tradition with us

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

I love tamales! What a fun tradition.

got a kick out of gathering the HELP!

terriporter said...

Tamales are a tradition in our family as well . . . eating them, not making them! When my oldest son was in grade school, had a friend who's mom made tamales every year and would bring us some. Once they left for college, the tamales stopped coming but we were so used to having them for Christmas Eve, we found a place not to far away where they make wonderful tamales and now we buy them. But the tradition of making them with friends and family is so much better! LOVE the idea of the card exchange! That will be so much fun! We used to get a ton of cards during the holidays and it seems that people have stopped sending them as much so it will be wonderful to get some in the mail from all my friends here at FOL!

Dotti said...

Your photos are mouthwatering, Linda! This all sounds like so much fun. Who was it earlier in the week, Claudia, maybe, who observed that most, if not all, of our traditions seemed to revolve around food? Case proven! :-D

Have to agree with Terri about the cards ... people don't send as many as they used to. I've already begun thinking about what to create for this year. Better get busy ...

Thanks, Linda! And have a tamale for me.


Carol said...

SO much fun! Wish I could come! I will participate from a distance. For years I have been adopted by my Italian friends for the Xmas Eve seafood fest. This gives little whitebread me a tradition of offer back to them. I think I'll invite them for tamales!

kelly said...

when i was a little girl, our family had freinds who made homemade tamales. so yummy! what a wonderfully, delicious tradition to share with your family.

Kim Stevens said...

Oh, I'm wanting some tamales right now!! There is a Mexican woman who stops by my husbands office occasionally selling her tomales, and wow are they good! That does look like an undertaking and one done much better surrounded by family and this tradition, so fun!! Thanks for sharing!!

Leigh said...

I love me some tamales! Ship some of those up my way, would ya?
And the card exchange sounds so fun!

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