For my family, the week after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of tamal season.
While everyone else is wheeling and dealing at the mall, my dad, Uncle Joe and mother-in-law are in their respective kitchens, rolling up their sleeves to begin the customary process. They each produce up to 30 dozen tamales – barely enough to last through New Year’s. The annual tamalpaloozas have created some of my favorite memories, and I always make it a point to stop by while the chefs are knee-deep in masa.
My Uncle Joe loves to show off his high-tech equipment.
“See, Kathy, this is the best way to make tamales,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye, as he pushes the “on” button. “Your dad still does it the old-fashioned way, with his hands. He should really try it this way.”
He then has me try a fresh tamal. I deem it among the best I’ve ever tasted.
Next is my mom-in-law.
“My tamales are good because I add an extra ‘special’ ingredient that no one else does,” she says proudly.
Then she invites me to sample a steamy offering.
“Hmmm, you’re right – these are delicious,” I say.
Then there is my dad, the tamal Jedi master. His are sleek in design and sharp on fiery flavor. Call me biased, but his are still my favorites. I haven’t mastered the art of tamal making yet, but I can make a mean corn husk wreath.