I made Tamales for Christmas this year. I tried it before but seriously lacked the necessary heritage to pull it off well. We lived in San Antonio for a few years and always had Tamales for the Holidays. We miss them and the Tamales in Upstate New York are either canned or almost as bad as my homemade.
I had tried a few years ago and did really miserably. The masa crumbled and they were just a mess. I found a wonderful recipe on the Internet though and I felt really good about it. Such a tedious chore. It made me think about the cookies we made as kids and the candy we make with friends. I think, although I can only guess, that the best part of making Tamales is the conversation and shared love and experience that comes with making them as a family project. I can tell you for sure that making them alone is quite a drudge.
For those of you who don't have a clue, here is a brief description. Cook pork for hours, cut or shred pork, make sauce, add to pork or add when assembling. Soak dried corn husks, mix masa (fine cornmeal) with water and fat, spread masa on husks, top with pork/sauce, roll up carefully and then tie ends closed with string. Steam for 1.5 hours. There, simple right.
Making cookies with the family was so much more fun. If anyone knows a family in the Utica area that makes homemade Tamales for the holidays, I'd be willing to pay good money for them. Until then, I will continue to try, as mine looked good, but were really dry.
My Tamale making experience made me realize how important friends, family and heritage are to the holidays. The reason I make them is to remind me of old friends and family in San Antonio. We also make Utica Greens and we always will wherever we go.
It's tough for us, always moving. We could move back to Cleveland now, because I have my own business, but My daughter has her fiancée here, and he has family. So we stay here for a while.