Guest Post: Tamale Memories

Note: This is a guest post by my friend and fellow San Antonio homeschooler, Pam Humphrey. Like a lot of native Texans, tamale making is an annual tradition in her family, so I invited her to share some family photographs and memories to kick off this holiday season. Plus, the post makes for a nice way to mention the Second Annual Tamales at Pearl scheduled for this weekend in San Antonio.

Dolores Castañon

I love Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is passing down to my children a tradition that has been in our family a long time – tamale making. The tamale recipe that has been handed down from my great grandmother, Dolores Castañon, is still being made each Christmas with a few tweaks.

I remember being in my grandma’s kitchen on Christmas Eve and watching from the dining room as they made tamales in the kitchen. My grandma spiced the meat, while Aunt Linda spiced and mixed the masa. When it was time to spread the masa on cornhusks, everyone helped. I will always remember Aunt Virginia sitting on the far side of the table spreading masa.

Hermina "Mina" Ramirez, my friend Pam's maternal grandmother

After my grandma died, Aunt Linda made tamales but it wasn’t the same. There was no Christmas Eve gathering and it wasn’t in my grandma’s kitchen.

After my grandma died, there were several years where we did not make tamales, and I thought that the tradition had died with her. But my mom and dad dusted off the recipe one year and made several dozen and the tradition began anew.

Now tamales are made in their kitchen each year. I make sure my boys see the tamale-making. They enjoy helping spread the masa on cornhusks. I am learning all I can about the intricacies of the tamale-making process. I ask lots of questions and take notes on my photocopy of an old, yellowed recipe page.

One day it will be my turn to make tamales in my kitchen, but not this year, and I hope not for many years to come!

Explore More:

• If you crave tamales and aren’t lucky enough to have a family recipe, then check out this story that I wrote last year about Mi Casa Tamales.

• Sur La Table at La Cantera is hosting a tamale class this weekend. Call the store for details: 210-978-5580.


All images in this post copyright 2011 Pam Humphrey. Used with permission.


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