Friday, April 6, 2012

Donde estan las tamaleras?

I spent a whole day making tamales with Pastora Mari! It was SO fun. And SO much more work than I could have imagined! It was somewhere around December 30th, and we made a huge pot of them for the whole family to enjoy. You should have seen the love this woman poured into her masa, which is the cornmeal substance wrapped around the filling. We´re not talking maseca (icky corn flour) mixed with some water. We took a bucket of corn, walked a few blocks to a neighbor´s with a mill. Chatted with some neighbors along the way, and had a nice conversation with the woman while we ground our corn into a soupy mush. I was thinking we´d head home with our puree, add some water and get to making tamales. How many times do I have to tell myself, Silly Girl!!! It was an awesome process that involved so much I can´t remember it all. I did get to wear a fun apron for part of it, so that was nice. We boiled and strained la masa, added oil and tons of seasoning. We made a sofrito out of peppers, cilantro, ajo y tomates and swirled that into the masa.

When it came time to transport the pan (more like tub!) of masa to the fire, I was really wondering how it was going to all work out. We mixed and cooked the masa in this big metal tub, like what you´d see for bobbing apples at fall festivals in the States! The men lugged it to the wood stove out back, and Mari and I had some fun while we stirred our masa. I definitely need practice. Pastor Alfonso was cracking up because I was stirring it so fast and crazy, and Mari was stirring it in such graceful swirls. I´m blushing typing about it. We got it on video, which I´ll of course attempt to load here, but it was very funny to watch the replay of my feverish stirs in comparison with hers. We interviewed her on the video like she was hosting her own cooking show, and we all agree that her perma-smile makes her a natural. On the video I was asking her what goes into the masa, and the last ingredient she listed was love with a smile towards me. Everything tastes better with a little love mixed in!

Once the masa was a perfect thickness, the men came to our rescue (again) and lugged the tub back into the kitchen. Mari taught (correction: tried her best to teach) me how to properly fill, tuck and roll tamales. Again, just something that will take practice! We filled them with a few different veggies and chicken that Mari slow cooked all morning. We made so many, but they´re a big family and tamales are one of those gifted foods people are often giving away, so we needed lots. Mmm they were tasty. I´m of course completely biased, but even the  boys said they liked them! My hands had a funny yellowish tint to them from the banana leaves, but that just had me smiling at the hard kitchen work (mostly lots of kitchen fun) I´d gotten to share with Mari. She is a very special woman in my life. And Pastor Alfonso was loving having me there for the day. Especially since I was there making a fool of myself with the tamales! Every time he walked in he´d call out for las tamaleras. It was such a fun day!

Abuelita Lolita (Pastor Alfonso´s mom) teaching me the art of masa stirring!

This step seemed to be very important. A delicate balance of pressure and edging...

You normally wouldn´t use the plastic you see here, but our banana leaves hadn´t been handled properly (so I was told) and the kept tearing. So we improvised!