Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday Tamales

Liz's response to one of my comments triggered this story.

One of the great and sad things about this country is we cross so many cultural lines that we are constantly being blended, challenged, and changed by new cultural additions. It is great because I believe it helps us find the strengths that exist across such diversity. It is sad because some neat traditions are lost along the way.

For one family, Holiday Tamales was one of them.

We had interesting neighbors growing up. Typical of lower middle class California in the 50's and 60's, we had Mormons, Hispanics, Germans, etc. and Mutts** like us. The Garcias lived across the street from us and every year Mrs Garcia and her daughters made Tamales for the neighbors. Besides being GREAT tamales, it opened my eyes to how things can be lost. I had occasion a few years ago to visit with the Garcia daughter I went to school with and after her Mom died the generations long tradition of Holiday Tamales died. It is a shame. I do not think Gaby (the daughter) realized what a treat it was watching the Garcia women turn Tamale making into a fun social event that was also a labor of love.

I doubt I will ever have a tamale as good.

**Mutt and proud of it! *G*


Fantastagirl said...

Many traditions are being lost with each generation that passes on...I have learned how to make my Great-great Grandmothers Christmas pudding (although I refuse to eat it), becuse it's tradition for me to know how to make it, being a daughter of the eldest Granddaughter type thing.

Balloon Pirate said...

Traditions are as special as the people who do them want them to be. Some die, some change, and some new ones begin.

It has ever been so, and ever will be.


Liz said...

My grandmother tamale secrets also died with her. The best was her rice, oh how I wish someone knew how to make it. We still buy tamles for Christmas. Not exactly like making them, but we still get the joy of eating them.

Ed Abbey said...

Our Thanksgiving tradition is to hike in the mountains, end up by some stream and have a weenie roast. I'm guessing that I won't have to teach my daughter that one. She will either want to do it or not.

Leesa said...

You know, I am not near Texas/Mexico, but I had a great Aunt who made the best tamales during the Christmas season.

Notsocranky Yankee said...

When I was a kid, my family went to our friends' house for the whole Thanksgiving weekend. My mother was in charge of making and bringing all the pies. I have to resist making lots of pies, but the few I make are essential. I was in Paris last year on Thanksgiving. When I got home, my daughter informed me that I owed her a pie!

The other tradition was fried dough for breakfast. We would get to our friends' house Wednesday night so we woke up Thursday morning to the delicious smell of Mrs. Mell's fried dough. Yummmm! I make it for my kids now. I was just telling them this year how my mother never made fried dough so I had it once a year at the Mell's house, making it a very special treat!

Senor Caiman said...


I love hot spicey food. I have no feeling in my tongue but can still lick the tip of my nose.

Excellent post.

United We Lay said...

My husband's family does tamales every Christmas eve. It's even more important to do since his mother and father died. But now with the new baby we have the opportunity to make our own traditions.

James said...

Our family tradition has been to have tamales along with every other Mexican dish imagineable on Christmas Eve. For that reason I always looked forward to Christmas Eve as much as Christmas day.

Jessica said...

Holiday tamales are alive and well in SoCal. Maybe you should blame it on geographic instead of cultural shifts.

sage said...

homemade tamales are always good. there was a Hispanic family in Utah that made them and sold them by the dozen and they were wonderful. Haven't found any good tamales here in MI

Gary said...

I once lived in a street with a hindu family at the end of the row - was sitting in the house one evening on my own when there was a knock at the door and there stood the lady from the hindu house holding forward a huge plate full of onion bhaji's, she wasn't an english speaker and just beckoned me to take one.

I reached out to grab the biggest one I could see and found myself holding the plate while she ran down the drive.

Managed to eat about eight of them and our german shepherd dog finished off the rest - can't remember the name of the hindu festival but I miss the free food since we moved house.