Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recipe = Memories for a lifetime

Today I'm participating in a writing prompt by RemembeRED.  — Recipe
This week, we’ve asked you to share with us a special recipe. But, we’ve asked you to do more than just list out ingredients. We challenged you to take us back…to take us into your memory, in 500 words or less.

A dash of memories
Sprinkles of love
A spoonful of warmth

That’s how I would describe the best recipe my grandmother ever gave me. But for you to understand, you would have to know that Christmas time in our household could only mean two things, lots of decorations and TAMALE time! For those not in the know, Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn based, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapper is discarded before eating) Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chiles, or anything you deem delicious. (See pic below)

As is customary during the holiday season, (at least in our home anyway) the making of tamales is a pretty big deal. Almost as big a deal as orchestrating Thanksgiving dinner! There were no better tasting tamales than the ones my grandmother used to make. Even now, almost eleven years since her death, I can close my eyes, let my mind drift to early Saturday mornings at abuela’s (grandma) house. She’d call all of her daughters and grandchildren and put all of us to work. Whether it be chopping, mixing, cutting or frying, everyone had a job to do. I loved those times the best. We worked and talked and laughed. And she’d tell us stories of her childhood, or how she met my grandfather. Sometimes, much to the rolling of the eyes of my aunts and my mom, she’d even tell us stories of how our mothers misbehaved while growing up. The time would pass by quickly. And soon, once the tamales were in the oven or on the stove cooking, we’d all seek reprieve in the living room while my grandmother made chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) for us. And then we waited for our labor to be nice and cooked, so we could devour our creations. We had tamales for the entire month of December it seemed. And sometimes, she’d get orders from other relatives or friends. She was always busy with orders. We worried that so much undertaking would take a toll on her faltering health. But she reveled in it. The holidays always make my heart ache for my abuelita. I would give anything to walk into her kitchen and see her standing over the stove, like always. Sometimes, when I go over her house now, if I inhale I can smell of the faint scent of her perfume and of the masa (dough), permeating the air. No greater recipe than that.


Belle said...

What a beautiful memory of your grandmother and Christmas. I love tamales, although I am sure I've never eaten the traditional ones; just the ones in cheap restaurants! The ones in the picture look fantastic. What kind of cheese is in those tamales in the photo? Or is it cheese?

Jennifer Hillier said...

Those are lovely memories of grandmothers. Nothing ever tastes as good as when our grandmothers made it!

The Frisky Virgin said...

Awwww, this absolutely warmed my heart! Beautifully written, my friend! *Hugs*

Yvonne said...

Belle- Yes it's cheese. I don't have a clue what kind it is! I'll find out! lol

Jennifer- I know! I totally agree!

FV- Thank you, glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

I found you through the RemembeRed linkup. Isn't it amazing how powerfully smells can control our memories? I loved the part where you talked about the smell of her perfume and the masa still being in her home.

Your story brought the children's book Too Many Tamales instantly to my mind!

Patricia Iles said...

Oh, I LOVE tamales! Not that my Ouma ever made them. If Dutch people made tamales, they'd probably be stuffed with cheese and onions. Wait a minute. That sounds pretty good, actually!

Thank you for sharing this. I love the picture you paint so very well!


Mihee said...

I felt transported reading this...and the tamales are making me salivate! Now I'm craving them. :)

Jo-Anne Rambling said...

Tamales sound interesting not sure if would like them but they do sound cool.

When I think of Christmas I think of my my nan we had the best Christmas at her place there was always a crowd and lots of decorations and just a great time.

Yvonne said...

Jester Queen- Oh wow, I'll need to check out that book! Glad my post could evoke nice memories for you. Oh and just so you know, I was craving tamales today all day because of this post! I had some tonight for dinner. lol

Patricia- Glad you liked it! Thanks for dropping by. Those with onions do sound delish!

Mihee- you and me both! lol

Jo-Anne- Yeah, I have a lot of friends who never cared for them. I guess it's an acquired taste.

David Batista said...

The culture I grew up around here in NYC was more about the pasteles than tamales, which are not really all that different of course. But I actually never liked either as a child. Still, if I had had a nice abuelita like yours to make them, Yvonne, I'm sure I would've ate them up like she was going out of business! :)

Thanks for sharing this memory. I feel the same way about my grandma, although her culture is more Scots-Irish/American. That's the kind of food I grew up with and love to this day.

Renee said...

After all the time, still smelling hints of your grandmother. That is what a food memory does for us.

This was a beautiful memory of your grandma, thank you for sharing.

Kelley said...

I am choking up at the thought of you missing your abuelita's tamales! :( I am sorry she isn't physically here anymore. I know that hurts.

Brandie @ Home Cooking Memories said...

I just stumbled onto your post today and have to tell you much I loved reading about your memory of your Grandma. I also make tamales every year, but I didn't grow up with it. Sometimes in my late teens my mom started making them for Christmas Eve dinner. This is now a tradition in my own home -- every year I make them. Sometimes I have help but usually it's just me, but I still love the whole process.

I've often read about similar memories of other families making tamales all day...I would love to be a part of that if even just once. I bet I could learn a lot!