Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tamale Time

Every Christmas season, I get the urge... The urge to begin this tradtional fun. It has been a void 3 years now, as Mom has no drive to do it. I am contimplating gathering the girls, my Sis, putting down the quilts, and reviving a memory. Enjoy the post.

As far back as I can remember in my childhood, Making Tamales during the holidays was a tradition. It consumed the entire family and the whole house as well. The bathtub had water and corn husks in it for the duration of the event. The kitchen was clean enough to eat off the floor and filled to the ceiling with strange looking supplies that we see only once a year during the Christmas season. Giant pots for steaming, long tongs for burning ones fingers, aromatic dried red chili’s, large vats of masa, boxes of lard (which everyone hides) and husks of corn we call Oja’s.(oh haas) The Shopping, gift-wrapping, errand running were all put on hold at this time. Including, but not limited to our lives.

I wanted desperately to help with the process, but it wasn’t until my teens that I was allowed into the kitchen. Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true! After what seemed to be a million incorrect tamale spreading, I wanted out of the kitchen, never to return! I was the newbie…the novice…and I didn’t speak a word of Spanish damn it! My mother and her cousin Nicki would chatter away and I just knew they had juicy gossip that they weren’t sharing with me. And the only time I was spoken to was to be corrected yet another time! This went on for days! I would sit and plot my escape while my fingers became increasingly bent in an uncomfortable spatula position, aching from the cold of the Masa. It was generally too cold to ride my motorcycle or do anything out of doors. I was trapped in a non English-speaking kitchen! I watched almost every move my Mother made in hopes of graduating to another job in the process. Assembling the luscious concoction, or making the chili, or steaming a batch to hear the raves of the rest of the family! One that was a bit more challenging. That day wouldn’t come until I was in my late twenties and had children running everywhere to challenge me!

I spent the next 2 decades relishing in the time spent through the holidays with my Mother making Tamales, and also dreading that period of time. Our dozens of tamales were to be shared with friends and family all around. Neighbors and business associates as well. Everyone knew the gifts were coming and could hardly wait. Our Tamales soon became the gift that couldn't be bought. Because of this, we increased our recipe to a whopping 40 dozen! Often times we toyed with the idea of actually putting our dish on the market. (At the request of others) That notion was always dispelled as soon as presented. After all, the purpose was gift giving from love, not monetarily beneficial. The work is exhausting, and the mess is tremendous. The fruits of our labor and the time spent with Mom were well worth the efforts made. It was the only time of year I could actually connect with her, and her with my children and me. Both good and bad she witnessed the kids, from their curtain climbing years, through their terrible teens. It has been a treat to watch my own daughter go through the apprentice stage of joining us in tamale time. And while we diligently worked the days and nights away we chatted in English for hours on end. We solved the world’s problems at my kitchen table. We handled a few of her troubles and some of mine too. We laughed and cried, bossed each other around, sang the days away to Christmas music and gospel tunes. On some occasions we were able to steal away for a round of Bingo or a late movie. (This always resulted in burnt Tamales)

I am certain that we learned a lot from one another. More so than in all of my childhood years. I know I learned how to make Tamales from beginning to end, and even became an expert in the field! I possess at least 10 different recipes with variations of spice and quantity. Striving always for perfection. I do this journaling every evening as we wind up the days work. And when I laid down each night to rest, it felt like having been comforted by my Mother as a child. Since she and I have never shared a great deal of physical affection, this is as close as it gets. The Fond memories Mother and I have made are a treasure that I keep in my soul. For that reason alone, this time will always be cherished, for it isn’t really tamale time at all.


Jan Thompson said...

Gina - what a lovely story. It touched my heart. Probably because I have taken over a tradition that was my mother's - making the Christmas orange bread. Check out my blog later, and I will try to tell the story with as much love as you have!

Anonymous said...

The last year you made them was the only time ever in my life I had them, that was so much fun, came just before dinner.
I miss u
Hey! its soon Latka time :)

Freda said...

I love tamales Gina. What a wonderful tradition.

Karen Anderson said...

Hi Gina!

What a wonderful story. We do not have traditions in our family - well we have pretty much the same menu every year but no real bonding. I try to get together with my younger sister to do gingerbread houses and Easter eggs on the various holidays...but none really with mom. It is really sad.

Thanks for sharing a wonderful memory.

Karen A.

PS - if I provide the shipping will you send me some tamales??? I like them kind of spicey!! ;-)

Deb said...

What a wonderful story Gina dear! It is so wonderful to cherish the memories we have.

I love tamales...I have an almost daughter in law (hopeful to the end) that is mexican. ANd whenever she comes to visit we have a wonderful feast and lots of 'lessons' In fact, Don (my DH)and I decided to try the tamale lesson. We gathered all the supplies and spent the ENTIRE day in the kitchen...together....making Tamales. When it was over. we had 20 dozen tamales...good, though probably not as good as Georgina's; a horrific mess in the kitchen, that yours truely had to clean; but most important we were still married, and even speaking to each other!!!

We don't do tamales anymore. LOL

Nancy Hughson said...

Beautiful memory adn holiday tradition you can share with Avi!

Another holiday and I am still taunted by your yummy tamales. (drooling).

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