A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 14, 2008
Tamalada (tamale-making party)

The tamal (tamale) can take a long time to properly prepare. Tamales are often served on Christmas (and other festive occasions); before the occasion, a tamalada (tamale-making party) is usually held.

‘Tamalada” is cited in English since at least 1873. The tamalada has become an institution in South Texas among Mexican-American families.


4 March 1873, San Francisco (CA) Bulletin, “Radical Evils in Mexico,” pg. 2:
Mr. Escandon’s Tamalada was a private one, in a private mansion.

Google Books
Face to Face With the Mexicans
By Fanny Chambers Gooch (Iglehart—ed.)
New York, NY: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert
1887
Pg. 291:
he tamalada is an outdoor diversion somewhat corresponding to our picnics. It usually occurs in the afternoon, in some quiet wood or beautiful garden, and begins with dancing, which is kept up throughout the afternoon and evening. The refreshments are tamales, after which the entertainment is named—atole de leche and ,i>chongos. The latter is simply sliced bread with piloncilla (syrup made from brown sugar) and grated cheese thickly spread over each piece, the whole arranged in pyramid form, and is a most delicious dish. A dia de campo (day in the country) with a gay tamalada party, is a most agreeable recreation. Pity that it occurs so rarely! 

Google Books
December 1892, The Sanitarian (The Medico-Legal Society of New York), pg. 492:
It was purely for pleasure, and to give the ladies who had come to mexico an idea of one of those enjoyable mexican events, a “tamalada.”

Google Books
The People of Mexico:
Who They Are and How They Live

By Wallace Thompson
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
1921
Pg. 264:
There are certain occasions when the tamal is absolutely indispensable for the celebration of a festival, and a tamalada, or “party-for-eating-tamales,” is an event looked forward to for many days.

Google Books
Mexico
By Frank George Carpenter
New York, NY: Doubleday, Page & company
1924
Pg. 173:
A tamalada, or party for eating tamales, is a festal occasion, like a watermelon feast with us. 

Google Books
Mexico Today
By Colonel Irving Speed Wallace
By Irving Speed Wallace
Published by Meador Publishing Company
1936
Pg. 68:
After being rolled in corn leaves they are steamed, and eaten both hot and cold. Often the families will have a “tamalada,” which might correspond ...

26 October 1938, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. B7:
“Tamaladas" Popular Mexican Fete

Google Books
Concha’s Mexican Kitchen Cook Book
By Catharine Ulmer Stoker
San Antonio, TX: The Naylor Company
1946
Pg. ?:
Or what if the tamalada to be given by the Ortolago family in honor of a friend’s birthday occurred,...

14 May 1948, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, “1,000 People Deluge Annual Tamalada Fiesta” by Kara Hunsucker, pg. 13, col. 2:
The most distracted women in Corpus Christi last night where (sic) the Episcopal guild women doing behind-the-scenes work in the kitchen at the Tamalada.

Google Books
Discovering Mexican Cooking
By Alice Erie Young, Patricia Peters Stephenson
San Antonio, TX: Naylor Co.
1968
Pg. ix:
A typical new form of entertaining along the border, and a newly created wordto describe it, is the Tamalada.
Pg. x:
In many families a Tamalada is traditional on Christmas eve. Instead of having a picnic or a barbecue, clubs, civic organizations, even political rallies announce a Tamalada, for nothing is so sure-fire in bringing out a crowd.

23 September 1972, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Shriver Joins Texas ‘Tamalada,’” pg. A25:
Sargent Shriver spoke to a Texas “tamalada” throng on a country courthouse lawn Friday night while President Nixon dined with defecting Democrats at John B. Connally’s ranch only a few…

New York (NY) Times
Brownsville Journal; In Texas, It’s the Season For the Humble Tamale
By PETER APPLEBOME
SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: December 24, 1987
(...)
But here at the southern tip of Texas, when people think of Christmas, they think of the humble tamale, most notably the tamales served up by the tens of thousands at Jesus Ybarra’s tiny tamale shack in the front of his home on the service road of the main highway here.

It is a reminder that in the often homogenized commercialism of the Christmas season, regional customs still endure and flourish. Doubters need only check the annual traffic jam every year as the faithful show up at their appointed time to pick up the tamales they ordered for Christmas Eve.

‘’We get up at three or four in the morning to start cooking, and we’ll probably sell 5,000 dozen from early December to Christmas,’’ said Mr. Ybarra, who runs the business with his wife Yolanda. ‘’I don’t like to brag, but if a chef from France came here, he would say, ‘Hey, this is perfect. This is it.’ ‘’

In Mexico, tamales are rolled in banana leaves. But the tamales sold here combine a ground corn base called the masa with fillings such as chicken, beef or beans, neatly rolled in a corn shuck. As President Ford learned to his great embarrassment while visiting San Antonio a few years back, you don’t eat the husk.

Especially popular at Christmas time are sweet tamales, such as those made with beef and raisins. Tamale prices range from $3.04 for a dozen bean tamales to $3.74 for the raisin tamales.

Tamales, of course, are eaten all year round. But they became a special part of Mexican Christmases hundreds of years ago, and the tradition lingers in areas such as South Texas.

For years the preparation and eating of the tamales, known as la tamalada, was as much a family ritual for many Mexican-American families as trimming a tree.

‘’I think of it as the theology of la tamalada,’’ said Roberto Pina, program coordinator for the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio. ‘’It’s a process that begins with making the tamales, but ends up being a sharing of what’s gone on over the past year. It’s not just about making tamales. It’s a way of coming together, sharing and rejoicing.’’

Making homemade tamales, which can easily take eight hours, is probably on the decline. But people still eat them at the meal following Christmas mass and throughout the holiday season. They bring them to gatherings the way people elsewhere might bring fruitcakes. And tamale mavens discuss esoterica like venison tamales or tamales made with the meat of the javelina, a wild boar common to South Texas.

4 December 1992, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, pg. A23:
Tamaladas mean family, food, gossip
By Carlos Guerra

Google Books
Cooking Texas Style:
Tenth Anniversary Edition

By Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
1993
Pg. 91:
Tamales
Probably the most well known and popular Mexican food of all is the tamale. it is revered in Texas as a celebration food. They are traditionally made at Christmastime, but are also made for weddings, saints’ days quinceaneras (fifteenth-birthday celebrations), and tamaladas (a casual get-together for tamales and beer).

New York (NY) Times
Stuffing Corn Husks Instead of Stockings
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
Published: December 25, 1996
THE masa, or corn flour mash, was the perfect consistency, turned to the texture of Play-Doh. Three sauces sat in bowls and blenders, ready to douse whatever needed dousing. And the corn husks, once sturdy and dry, were now appropriately softened in tin trays of water. The tamalada was ready to begin.

For two nights last week, Christy Haubegger, the president and publisher of Latina magazine, turned her modest one-bedroom Chelsea apartment into a tamale assembly line for her annual Mexican Christmas party. By last Thursday night, her handpicked crew of five girlfriends, their hands softened by the pork fat with which they were working, had neatly bundled 300 tamales.

‘’It’s like a labor of love,’’ said Ms. Haubegger, 28, who as a child adopted in Texas was encouraged to explore her Mexican-American heritage. ‘’And by the time Christmas rolls around again next year, you have forgotten how labor-intensive it was last year.’’

For Ms. Haubegger, no matter how far she is from her parents’ Houston neighborhood, Christmas without tamales, a Mexican staple, is no Christmas at all. Traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, tamales, which are corn flour dough filled with pork or chicken, lathered in spicy sauces and steamed in corn husks, stir up her Mexican sensibilities like little else, she says.

But Christmas Eve tamales, especially in the numbers needed to feed extended families, take days to prepare. So another tradition kicked in last week as Hispanic mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters gathered in kitchens throughout the country to prepare the filling and delicately tie the ends of the tamales with strips of husk, trading streams of gossip to gloss over the long hours.

Google Books
Mexico One Plate At A Time
By Rick Bayless
New York, NY: Scribner
2000
Pg. 71:
It’s a tamalada, the tamal-making party before the party.

Embrace the culture of the tamalada and you’ll understand not just the “how” of tamales, but the “why.” Perhaps the closest thing we have to this communal culinary rite is making cookies at Christmastime.

Google Books
The Oxford Spanish Dictionary: Spanish-English/English-Spanish
By Beatriz Galimberti Jarman, Roy Russell, Carol Styles Carvajal and Jane Horwood
Published by Oxford University Press US
2003
Pg. 790:
tamalada / (Méx) party at which tamales are served

Google Books
The Tex-Mex Cookbook
By Robb Walsh
New York, NY: Broadway Books
2004
Pg. 82:
The Lopez clan had invited me to join them for their annual Christmas tamalada. November is a little early for Christmas, but not for the Christmas tamalada.

A tamalada is a tamale-making party, usually a family get-together when everyone pitches in to make a big batch for the holidays.

Google Books
Cooking with Texas Highways
By Nola McKey and Jack Lowry
Photographs by J Griffis Smith
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
2005
Pg. 136:
WHILE FRESH CORN TAMALES (ABOVE) GO TOGETHER QUICKLY, TRADITIONAL TAMALES—THOSE WITH MASA—TAKE A LOT OF TIME TO MAKE. THE SOLUTION IS TO ROUND UP FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS TO HELP, WHICH MAKES THE WORK MORE PLEASANT. THIS ACTIVITY IS CALLED A TAMALADA, AND IN MANY MEXICAN-AMERICAN HOMES IN TEXAS, IT’S A JOYFUL OCCASION THAT TAKES PLACE ANNUALLY A FEW WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. THE RITUAL PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY TO GATHER IN THE KITCHEN, LAUGH, AND EXCHANGE STORIES WHILE PREPARING DOZENS OF TAMALES TO USHER IN THE HOLIDAY SEASON.

San Antonio (TX) Current
12/12/2007
I lost it at La Gran Tamalada
Squishing, spreading, and rolling with a first-time tamalera

By Ashley Lindstrom
There are some experiences you can’t share with another person without walking away friends (if in that Fight-Club-single-serving kind of way). I’d heard tales of tamaladas. Of the gossip, the mechanical masa-schmering, and of course, the tequila.
Colectivo Cultural’s La Gran Tamalada, the one to which I was invited, took place in the morning, so that ruled that last element out.

Not so much a cook as a baker, I was attracted by the prospect of squishing lard and masa together in a bowl with my bare hands. (Current staffers are all too aware of my penchant for merging sugar and butter, leaving the fruits of my labor to them for disposal. Some like this more than others.)

But beyond the catharsis of pulverizing pantry items into a whole greater than the sum of its parts, I was drawn to La Gran Tamalada because tamales are one of my very favorite foods. Yes, since that first fateful meal when I tried to inhale the delicious treat with the hoja, or corn husk, still wrapped around it, I’ve been hooked. (You can imagine my first bowl of edamame.)

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Sunday, December 14, 2008 • Permalink


I really enjoyed reading this post.  I’m already online, checking out the books to add to my collection.

Posted by Jay Francis  on  12/14  at  11:01 AM

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