Sunday, December 13, 2020

DDT

Every so often I am reminded that there are massive divisions between the Southwest and the rest of this great Nation, and never so much as the Christmas Season and Drug Deal Tamales.

For those poor, un-tamaled folks outside of the Southwest, this Season heralds the appearance of Little Old Mexican Ladies -- or their representatives -- who bring tamales.

Now, most Health Departments have rules, regulations, and ordinances regarding the things you have to do before you are allowed to sell pre-made foodstuffs.

On the other paw, most abuelitas don't give to hoots in hell about the regs concerning commercial food productions -- nor do they have any interest in ponying up the fees and other dosh required to become sanctified by the Bureacracy.

So, a lot of these tamales are sold on the sly -- depending on how tolerant the local Health Department is. They'll be a battered pickup, or four-door car in a parking lot, you pass over cash and receive a ziplock baggie containing a brick-sized lump of tinfoil with Heaven stuffed into little cornhusk packets.

Or someone in your office knows someone, who knows someone, and will pass along your order, or take up a collection.

Yes, you can get tamales from actual, certified restaurants and suppliers, but I've never had tamales as good as those from a random Mexican grandmother, passed over still steaming, and wolfed down at a stop-light, or in the driveway.

These tamales -- either pork or chicken -- are a big part of Christmas for me, and I kind of feel sorry for those folks in other parts of the Country who have never had them.

Pobrecitos.

LawDog

20 comments:

Old NFO said...

Our order is in... ;-)

Jess said...

I worked in an industrial facility that had a supervisor with a wife that made tamales. On Wednesday, she'd arrive before noon to sell her tamales to anyone that wanted a dozen, or two.

She never had any left, and the large ice chest she arrived with was packed with what you describe as little packs of heaven. No restaurant could repeat the recipe, and the Mexican momma in her made sure the amount of meat was perfect to the amount of masa.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Why, I never walked into the gym to note a small scribble on the announcement whiteboard, and promptly ponied up cash to make off with the last packets of awesome in a walmart shopping bag.

At least, not if any bureaucrat asked me about it.

Snarkatron said...

He's not lying. I got some once as part of a Thanksgiving dinner in California. The abuelita had thoughtfully lowered the spice level for the gringos, too! All Hail Tamales!...I need a supplier though.

Sherm said...

There are few things I miss after moving to Montana. Christmas tamales are on the list. I've asked around but only get looks of confusion.

Kort said...

One of the things I've missed about the holiday season is going to see the lights downtown and the tamale vendors. Park your car, walk to see the displays at the capital building and the justice center, and catch the guy with his heated trolley selling his abuela's tamales. Actually, the last time I went, you could get his abuela's or his esposa's recipe. Diplomatic folks took one of both.

B said...

There is an upside to ahving a large Hispanic presence here in Northwest Indiana...Tamales like my grandmother used to make for Thanksggiving and Chrismas holday feasts.

I already ahve my order in.

As you say, "Little Packets of Heaven".

Nick Flandrey said...

Had some Friday night. My first year here in Houston the tamale lady was sidling thru the parking lot at Home Depot. "Tamales" step step "Tamales" step, never looking left or right, the words coming out of the side of her mouth.... I had no idea what was going on but it FELT exactly like being offered drugs.

17 years later, the tamales someone on the FB mom's trading group hooked my wife up with were indeed heavenly.

nick

Tucsonan said...

As I've told elsewhere* I buy them at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. I usually forget them at my folks house. My step-dad has suddenly gotten good at playing guitar. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

*If any of you are from that particular elsewhere "Hi!"

Roger Ritter said...

Mexican church lady tamales are the best!

Anonymous said...

Mami only began making the Tico Tamales (we’re not Mexicanos) a few years before she died. Beforehand, she’d buy them from a paisana who made them on the side... also long deceased. I can’t make them because they took the recipes with them.

Mexican tamales, albeit good, just don’t taste the same.

Christmas is really sad around here.

Ulises from California

Jay Bee said...

I have fond memories of the battered old Mexican gentleman driving an even more-battered Ford Ranger, the passenger seat full of little packets of heaven.

These days, the packets come from a few old coolers outside the entrance of the local tire shop.

RandyGC said...

One of the things I miss about being in Texas.

The other was stopping by a local grocery store in San Antonio in the morning and having the pick of a variety of still warm tortillas fresh from the "factory".

MAJ Arkay said...

Tamales at Christmas was not a thing in the Texas Panhandle when I was a kid. That said, I adopted the tradition as soon as I heard of it.

There are several lovely abuelas around here with differing recipes, and all of them are delicious -- well, I do pass on the raisin tamales. Just something about a cooked raisin I do not like.

We like to stock up on tamales, put 'em in the freezer, and enjoy them year round.

Anonymous said...

There are few things I miss about hot, flat TX after moving back to West-by-God but this is one of them.

Jeff F. said...

Retired recently from the San Francisco VA hospital. Christmas time would roll around and they'd appear with their little packets of heaven.
I wish we could have contracted them to do a Christmas event for the folks in our nursing home...
Merry Christmas!

waepnedmann said...

My dad is from Texas and mom was from New Mexico.
When we went to visit kin in New Mexico my uncle would barter a pig to an abuela for tamales.
She kept half and we got half. But she specified that she got all the tamales made from the jowel meat.

When we visited wifmann's aunt in Arizona she had bought tamales special from the local abuela just for our breakfast with fresh eggs.

Having no good tamale abuelas in our area about fIfteen years ago ago I set out to learn to make my own tamales.
After a couple of years my tamales became quite palatable.
After a few more years and more experimentation and study I am proud to say my tamales are rated "The Best" by all that try them.
They make a fine Christmas gift to family and friends, but wifmann is careful and counts them out to make sure she does not do without.

We have had a couple of family get-togethers where the kids and grandkids learned to make them.
We usually fill two cookers and end up about 100 tamales at about a tenth of a pound of meat per tamale and ten pounds of masa (use the coarser masa for tamale masa).

Pork is traditional, but I have mixed pork an beef to keep the moistness from the pork but more meat flavor from the beef.
Hatch green chili and mozzarella string cheese are also good in a tamale.

I get my red chili paste from Santa Cruz, AZ.

Dan Lane said...

@RandyGC, same. I was a bit North of San Antonio in the Canyon Lakes area towards New Braunfels. Real tamales. Real food. That's what I miss.

FredLewers said...

"gotta go re-up the tamales baby. I'll be back shortly."
"If you get caught I'm not bailing you out!"

Cheryl Mason said...

I worked at a property tax collector's office in the San Joaquin Valley of CA. The first due date was on Dec 10. Every December,one of the office supervisors would end up coming in with a lasagna sized pan full of tamales from a family run tortillaria.
It was usually empty by noon.