Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ahhhh Nostalgia... The Tamale Ritual

Ahhh Nostalgia ! The Holidays start my mind’s eye to wander to decades past.
Come with me!
 It’s the mid sixties, in my Mama Prieta (grandmother)
and Papa Lupe’s (grandfather’s) farm. 
The early morning Sounds I remember are turkeys gobbling, chickens  clucking, roosters crowing, and dogs barking. But, I was snuggled under three or four warm blankets that had been made by a quilting group.
The Visions are of a small decorated tree in the living room; no theme for her!  String up the multicolored lights!  Watching her black and white television but not for long, there was no watching cartoons on a Saturday morning! Do you remember the lamps that rotated around?   Well,
they had an aquarium scene where the fish would swim endlessly.

Sounds, visions, smells in the kitchen area are starting
to come alive.  The hojas were soaked in an aluminum tub (used only for making tamales)
had a distinct smell.  My grandmother would soak the
corn in lime to remove the outer seed coat – pericarp.  It was called niztamal.
Then, it was ground up to make the masa- corn dough.  Chile rojos were boiled, and magically
became the ingredient in the meat filling and the masa.  I wasn't very observant, because I
don’t remember the process! 
Did we have blenders back then?  I’ve got to ask Mom or Tia Nina.
Slaughtering the pig is a topic that needs to be covered on another day.  Mom and Dad kept this
tradition going well into the eighties.  The pork meat was cut up and ground in Tio Johnny’s meat grinder.  He was the butcher in the family.  The rich spices, the chiles, the meat  cooking, the corn masa…. MMMMMMM!
The laughing, the chatter, the spoons clacking against the wooden drawer as tools for the task before us were being prepared. Life was good.  Life was simple.
The “Rookies” or younger set were in charge of filling the tamales.  We were not allowed to spread
masa on the hojas; you would think that we had to attend a Culinary Institute before being allowed to spread the corn dough on the smooth side of a corn husk!!!  We did not “tie the tamales”.  We were taught early on to fold and have open tip point upwards. You don’t want the filling drip out during cooking process!
Tamales were cooked in a large  paela- black cauldron over fire outdoors.  Couldn’t find correct spelling for this term!  They were smoked and wonderful!!
I’m going to look for pictures of Mama Prieta checking the cooking process.
Now this was life in the Sixties through Eighties Tamale Process.
Now the “NEW AND IMPROVED Shortcut Method "is coming in the next few days!!!
I confess that I have never spearheaded this tradition;  I have only been a team member!
This year is the year I master this!!!
Fun Facts:
Corn grows from kernels. A kernel has
four parts. The pericarp (seed coat) is the outer covering for
protection. The endosperm is the largest section and stores food for the
seed. The germ (embryo) is the only living part of the kernel. The tip
attaches the kernel to the cob.
Source:  Corn in the Classroom

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