The other day, we were in a waiting room for a doctor's appointment for Tim. A Mexican man came in and talked to the receptionist. My wife looked over to me and whispered, conspiratorially, "He's selling tamales..."
Tamales are one of those wonderful Hispanic foods. It seems every Latin American country has their own version...Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, and on and on. Some are wrapped in banana leaves and many different varieties of fillings are used.
I'm a Mexican style fan, with the corn meal masa cuddling a meaty filling of pork or beef (preferrably pork), chicken, green chile and cheese...even pineapple and raisins. This is wrapped in corn husks while many are additionally encompassed in paper then steamed.
Here in Southern California, you can get them almost anywhere. Every Mexican restaurant sells them, you can get them in many supermarkets...ready made or available to take home and steam. They even sell canned tamales.
Some are good, most Mexican restaurants can at least make a passable tamale and a few excel at them. Some are not good at all...see the canned tamales above. If you see a tube of tamales labeled in letters coded to say it's "excellente," keep walking.
The best, however, are made by little teams of underground entrepreneurs. Getting together at someone's house and assembling these treats of soft, moist, filled masa, they gather up piles and piles of the delicious little packets and roam out looking for a sale.
Sometimes at work, you'll find someone who's mom makes them and you can send an order in. We'll exit our church after mass and, once in awhile, there'll be a couple of ladies with a bucket for sale or, as it was today, someone will go office to office delivering a delicious and cheap lunch.
Yes, my friends, it's also cheap. While I've had mediocre tamales at farmers market costing $6.50 a piece, good ones at our favorite Mexican restaurant and cantina for $3.75...it's these home-made beauties that are the best, tastiest you can find and they're usually dirt cheap.
Back at the doctor's waiting room, after my wife asks what varieties he has, I ask how much. $1.50 each or $17 a dozen.
I get 6 red pork and 6 chile and cheese tamales, conveniently wrapped in a plastic bag, slip him $17, and put the haul in the car for later.
With an afterglow of delicious tamale dinner memories in my tummy (the tamales we bought are pictured at the top of this post), I write these words to you after our latest adventure. As good as it gets.
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
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