Magazine article Sunset

'Tis the Season: To Light the Luminaria ... to Make Potstickers ... to Hit the Beach. We Celebrate the Many Ways Westerners Mark the Holidays, Starting with One Cook's Lively Tamale-Making Party

Magazine article Sunset

'Tis the Season: To Light the Luminaria ... to Make Potstickers ... to Hit the Beach. We Celebrate the Many Ways Westerners Mark the Holidays, Starting with One Cook's Lively Tamale-Making Party

Article excerpt

One memory of Christmas past has always stuck with me: opening the steamy, fragrant tamales given to my family as gifts when we lived in Guadalajara. Our celebrations tended to involve roast beef and Yorkshire pud- ding, and decades later, they still do--but I've remained fascinated by the Mexican tradition of making tamales for Christmas. So when I had a chance to join a tamale-making party, or tamalada, with Mexican cookbook author Marcela Valladolid, I was thrilled. Forget gingerbread men; I'd be giving tamales for Christmas.

On tamalada day at Valladolid's home in Chula Vista, California, she gathered her three aunts, Laura, Martha, and Marcela; her friend Viviana; and her 9-year-old niece, Daniella, around the dining table to strategize. In a flash, everyone had a task. Valladolid may look as dewy as a tween, but within two minutes of meeting her, you begin to see the grit that's made her a food-world star: A cohost on the Food Network TV series The Kitchen, she's also launched a line of foods for Safeway, written two books, and cooked at the White House twice. "Into the kitchen, Has!" she barked.

Even though the kitchen wasn't big, no one bumped into anyone else, and the Spanglish flowed in an easy stream of jokes and advice. "La masa tiene que estar hien fluffy," said Tia Martha, showing Daniella how th.com dough should look when it's ready. The other very important thing about tamales: Don't make them alone. "Otherwise it takes forever!" said Valladolid.

A tamalada isn't just about efficiency, though. "It's about being with family and passing the recipes on to the next generation."

Valladolid has been making tamales with her aunts for decades. She grew up near them in Tijuana, and throughout her childhood, the clan would gather for an epic lunch every Sunday at the home of her grandfather Eugenio, a former diplomat. Valladolid's mother, Lucha, the fourth sister--the one who told the best jokes of all--died several years ago. "After that, my tias became my mom," said Valladolid. But no one forgets Lucha. "She's floating around here somewhere."

What with chiles roasting on burners and clouds of masa harina in the air, there was serious potential for stains, but everyone wore silk and linen, good jewelry, and perfect makeup. As someone who usually spills on herself five seconds after stepping in the kitchen, I was impressed. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.