Tamales are not just masa and meats wrapped in corn husks, a whole experience is wrapped into tamales, they are full of flavor, family, friends, memories, traditions, and history!
The tamale is recorded as early as 5000 BC, possibly 7000 BC in Pre-Columbian history. The women would make tamales for the hunters or when in battle would travel with them, the tamal is a filling meal and holds well for traveling.
Over the centuries tamales remain as one of the most traditional foods in Mexico, and also in Central & Southern America. There are so many variety that are often distinguished by the region of Mexico, the technique for the masa (corn dough) making is fairly consistent, however the fillings have a huge variety. One thing for sure, they are labor intense and time consuming to make, thus now they are so often only made during the holidays or special celebrations.
What I enjoy most of tamales, besides eating them, is the event itself of making the tamales, the tamalada, which is the assemblying of the tamales (soaking the corn husks, spreading the masa, filling them, wrapping them, and cooking). I guess it’s similar to getting together and making Christmas cookies. It’s really quite an event to make the tamales, most often entailing 2-3days of preparation for the shopping of ingredients, preparation of the mole, preparation of the masa, then the assembling, and finally the cooking. If you are making tamales from scratch, and most likely making several dozens, it requires, and is much more fun when family and/or friends participate! The holidays are a great time for a tamalada, growing up my mom and the tias (aunties) and cousins made everything from scratch. And if you are planning on making tamales from scratch and it’s your first time, I highly recommend to have at least one experienced person assisting you so you to get perfect tamales, everything from the masa to the sauce to the cooking process has it’s tricks- trust me! I’m lucky I have El Burrito Mercado to get the prepared masa and tamales fillings so all I have to do is assemble the tamales and cook em up!
Four years ago we held our first tamalada class and people look forward to it now, this weekend we had our 2016 tamalada in our newly expanded La Placita Room and it was a success! Everyone had a great time, my mother, our matriarch, shares some really fun stories and a plethora of information all about tamales while the class sipped on cocktails and ate dinner. Then, the last half of class everyone assembles their tamales, learns about tamales cooking techniques and then enjoy dessert & ponche navideno, each person walks away with a swag bag full of goodies.
Here are some pictures from our 2016 tamalada:
We are offering another tamalada in January, this event is open for kids too, 12yr and older, it’s a wonderful cultural experience, eat delicious authentic dinner, learn the basics about tamale making and then assemble your own to take home and freeze to later cook for your Superbowl party or for any event! Registration is now open and limited capacity, register soon, makes a great holiday gift!
So you see, tamales are not only masa and meats wrapped in the corn husk, also wrapped into each tamal is history, tradition, flavor, memories, and experiences.
Cheers, to your Tamalada!