Squirrel Picnic

Handmade with Love and Stuff

The Tamale: A Tradition Is Born

Every year my aunt and uncle host a Christmas fiesta on their ranch in Longmont, Colorado. The festivities begin as the family gathers around the island in the kitchen to sample appetizers while Aunt Mary mashes refried beans and keeps a watchful eye on the pressure cooker stuffed full of the much-anticipated tamales. Attending this fiesta for the first time almost a decade ago was my introduction into my husband’s warm and loving family. It was an honor to attend then and it means just as much to me today.

This year, I felt especially honored when Aunt Mary offered to teach my sister-in-law, Cindy, and me how to make these tamales using a family recipe that she has worked hard to preserve over the years. Mary told us how her mother, like many family cooks from older generations, never really measured ingredients and didn’t have many written recipes for the traditional foods. She explained that when you’ve made them so many times, they become committed to memory and your eyes and hands naturally intuit the measurements.

That’s why this recipe is so special to the family and why Cindy and I jumped at the opportunity to join Mary in her kitchen on a sunny day in early November to receive her instruction. Continue reading