Evolution of Tamales
Long live tamales! Tamales for survival. Tamales for celebration. Tamales for tradition and tamales at lunch time. Tamales for any night of the week.
Tamales are a Mexican tradition that originated with the indigenous groups in Mexico. They have reached into the different Latin American countries. Their perseverance and longevity have earned them a rightful place on the calendar, March 23 “Tamales may have Mesoamericanorigins. But the food belongs to all of Latin America.” Tamal traditions moved along Mexico and into other Latin American countries, sometimes wrapped in corn husks and other times in banana leaves. Masa fillings adjusted according to what the land produced. Tamales started as a practical survival, easy to carry food as people migrated. This practical use carried much value, tamales became a holy food that was appreciated through various religious celebrations. So it follows that today, thousands of years later tamal traditions fit wonderfully into our various festivities or pulled out on any regular day.
Tamales at Christmas was our family tradition. My mother gathered her supplies through the season. I always thought it was no big deal to prepare, but now I know the backstory. I’ve pulled out my pocket book to buy the ingredients and supplies and I've done the hard work required. Hats off to tamaleras everywhere!
On Christmas Eve, mom had her meat simmering and her masa perfect, she gathered her little army and positioned the assembly line. Tamales de puerco y de pollo. The chicken tamales included a thin carrot and potato stick, a swig of cilantro, one green olive and a raja of pickled jalapeño. One of us spread the masa on corn husk, another added filling and two of us embellished each tamal and tied it’s ends. Mom carefully assembled the tamales in her huge pots for a long steaming process.
Christmas Dinner was simple, tamales served up with frijoles fritos, beans refried to the perfect consistency and Mexican rice. Our big family noisily gathered around the table as mi ama served dinner with a steaming mug of champurrado
Throughout the entire Christmas season we had tamales in our house. Our neighbors would send their fresh tamales, and ama would send hers to other neighbors. The entire barrio buzzed with tamal connections. You can imagine my delight when as an adult, expanding my horizons I saw that tamales were part of Thanksgiving also. Well why not?!
People all over America work hard in the kitchen to present a perfectly roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, yams and probably other sides that complete their delicious Thanksgiving Dinner. In a whirlwind people eat, then eat some more, too full to move. Leftovers get sent home with the guests, adult children, your sister, and still there's meat left on the carcass.
Stripped down to bare bone, the meat is shredded and stored in a zip lock bag, into the freezer for another occasion with turkey tamales as the main event!
My sister in law Sandra, makes a red sauce, like the one for enchiladas rojas. She mildly seasons the turkey and adds the sauce. While it simmers, she finishes up her preparations. Perfect light masa, soft pliable hojas. I won’t attempt to give you her recipe because she is very comfortable in her kitchen and cooks without measurements. You’ll have to take my word, her turkey tamales hit the mark. A nicely roasted Thanksgiving turkey paved the road for moist tasty tamales.
Tamales on a special occasion
Remember, tamales can go in any direction. They were created for that purpose, as the need arises tamales fill it. Special occasions, noteworthy events that should be highlighted. A birthday? An anniversary? A baby announcement? A baby Arrival? Graduation? Your teen got her license. Maybe you have succeeded in potty training your 3 year old? There you go! Bring the tamales and celebrate!
How rare is the occurrence? Is it such an occasion that the relatives from far off will have to be summoned?
Weddings are usually big gun celebrations that reach out to those relatives you rarely see. You’re trying to do something different, something out of the box. How about some mini tamales? They can open up the feast as appetizers. along with some Cheesy Queso sauce, yum! Guests remember the extraordinary things.
Like pleasant conversation with relatives. Relishing mini tamales and embracing family connections while they wait for the bride and groom to make their entrance into the banquet hall.
Lets say your memorable occasion is graduation day, this probably calls for immediate family, grandparents and friends, oh! And your son's teacher.
At this time of the year, after so much academic work it would be a casual, restful time. Definitely your high schooler wants to relax, have a late lunch with the family then go off with his friends. This calls for grilling. Put some steaks, some pollo asado on the grill and did you know tamales can go on the grill? Keep them wrapped in the corn husk and place them on low heat. Serve these up with salad sides and ice cold drinks. No need to worry about the right cutlery or table setting. It’s time to chill, your baby made it and you still have your full faculties.
Tamales Any Time
When there are no special occasions to summon the tamales, you have them lying in wait, just in case. You just never know when you’ll need them. Tamales when you haven’t grocery shopped. Tamales when you have that unexpected guest. They are great pinch hitters and will score a home run!
The calendar is packed full with holidays and special occasions, how fitting it is that March 20 marks the first official day of Spring. Just three days later March 23rd heralds National Tamal Day and from that point, let the tamaladas go forth. It is a good idea to have savory tamales that use meat for the meat lovers or fillings with no meat ready made for the fun loving gatherings. Texas Lone Star Tamales offers your traditional savory tamales that will jump right into your every occasion and make it easy comfortable and tasty!