Unwrapping Tradition Back in L.A.

My friends and I used to tell this joke when we were kids:

“Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?

So we can have something to unwrap!”

Ok, that’s not really true, we were spoiled brats and did have a lot besides tamales to unwrap. Regardless, my family has made tamales every year since Mom and Dad were married in 1954. This past Christmas, Jim and I got to participate in the annual tamalada at Mom and Dad’s house, something we never had time to do before we hit the road.

I’m trying to capture the Agredano recipe, and put one of my custom books together that shows how to make them. But getting the recipe from Mom is a little tough.

Oh, just add a little of this, a little of that,” she says. She doesn’t measure anything. All I really know is that it’s the lard that gives them their flavor. But once a year, this vegetarian will look the other way, because these tamales are just so darn good!


9 thoughts on “Unwrapping Tradition Back in L.A.”

  1. That looks like so much fun, you guys! Hurry up and perfect the recipe so you can teach us when you’re back in Colorado. I got a kick out of the gal who had to put on gloves!

  2. We’re hosting a very small (6 total) Mongolian New Year party at the end of February, with my “genuine” Mongolian friend and her husband and another couple.

    The Mongol version of the tamale fest is to make hundreds of “buuz” pronounced “boz”, little meat dumplings usually made with mutton. You get style points for how artistically you pinch closed the dough around the filling. We’re hoping to get lamb, but will use local grassfed beef in a pinch.

    David managed to find room for a bottle of Chinggis Khan vodka in his luggage, so we’ll have a traditional (at least since the time of the Soviet presence in Mongolia) beverage.

    The Mongol name for the holiday is Tsagaan Sar, which means “white moon”, since temperatures in Mongolia at the end of February can still go well below 0.

  3. Lo siento, pero … we didn’t even begin to capture the essence of the week-long experience that is La Tamalada in this video. From de-seedng the chiles – which creates kitchen air reminiscent of a red tide – to straining sauce, pulling meat and mixing masa, the true taste of traditional tamales can only be appreciated by those who have made them. But trying to interview a casa full of Mexicans as they sip mimosas with hands full of masa, is akin to herding gatos.


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