Holiday Traditions, Mexican Holiday food

Tamales, holidays & poetry

The next couple of days are spent making tamales, so I’m sending out my Sunday Share post ahead of time.

This year it’s a vegan, vegetarian, and meat lovers tamale fest.

All of the tamales are filled with strips of California green chile. What makes them vegan is adding plant-based cheese strips, while the others have Monterrey Jack cheese, and the ex-vegan, now a meat lover, has a beef filling.

Making tamales is a lot of work. It takes hours, but worth it because of the tradition we have in our family. Every December, I write a post about tamales. The most visited is this tamale recipe.

I’ve been part of the tamale-making process since five years old. Those were the days when my aunts and cousins came over to my mom’s to make pork tamales. When only the women did the preparation. Now, the men help spread the ojas, the corn husks, and fill them. (At least at my house).

The best part of making tamales is when the family is around the table, chatting, laughing, and recalling the previous years’ stories as we spread the masa on the ojas. We always have music or a Christmas movie on in the background. We snack on appetizers as we fold, and I jump from table to sink to stove.

As I fill and fold the ojas, I think about how the masa is suffused with my culture. The filling is loaded with each of my kid’s personalities. I’m folding stories as I wrap each tamal.

This recollection helped me choose a poem by Joy Harjo to share:

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Joy Harjo

Thank you for subscribing, commenting, and liking these posts throughout the year. I appreciate it.

May you experience the light of laughter, the warmth of love, and the joy of gratitude this season and beyond.

Mexican Holiday food

Tamales, Sugar Cane, and Nuns

Frida Kahlo with poinsettias in her hair and parrot from Champagne Confetti Co. on
 Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Frida Kahlo.
Champagne Confetti Co. on

I’ve been busy with tamale making for the past three days. We added an extra day for the vegan tamales.

Tamale making (or tamalada) is something my family prepares for days ahead and that I’ve talked about in previous years.

For Christmas, there are ingredients we use for our tamale making session and for Mexican traditional beverages: Champurrado, Ponche, and Rompope. Personally, I don’t make ponche or rompope because I’d be in the kitchen for an additional day.

These ingredients are hard to find unless you live in Southern California. We have several Mexican supermarkets in the city where I live. There is no “Hispanic” aisle in these stores. The whole store stocks Mexican products.

It’s not unusual to see this:

Sugarcane used for Ponche Navideño. Tamarind and fruit is also used.

The sugarcane is used to make Ponche. If one wants an alcoholic addition to this beverage, you’d pick up these:

Rompope Santa Clara

Rompope is an eggnog-like drink with eggs, cinnamon, and rum. A couple of these and you’re not fit to make tamales anymore.

I enjoy the family time where we don our aprons, grab our butter knife or spoon to spread masa, and reminisce about Christmas tamalada’s past

Ingredients for vegan tamales: vegan masa, pollo asado vegan, vegan cheese.
Tamale making for the vegans in the family

After the hours of spreading masa on ojas (corn husks), folding, lifting huge pots with four dozens of tamales within, we sit and relax a bit. This is when I start making the champurrado.

Two hours later, the tamales are ready. We enjoy them with a cup of champurrado, this year doused with a little Irish cream, and enjoy a late evening movie.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and feliz navidad to everyone!

vegan champurrado, Irish style
Vegan Champurrado with vegan Bailey’s Irish Cream