Tamales for the win

Normally, nothing gets my heart beating like a multi-day, multi-step project that culminates in the sharing of delicious food.

Which is why I was disappointed to find myself a little less than enthusiastic when it came time to prep for our annual Tamale Week celebration. I was busy, people were busy, and tamales seemed like just one more thing on a long to-do list, rather than something I look forward to all year long.

But I’d already ordered the ingredients and invited people, so I spent an afternoon rendering lard and another making red sauce, with the help of a friend. Then a morning finishing the sauce and another afternoon cooking the pork and making the stock. Working with the ingredients was, as it always is, soothing: the rhythms, the muscle memory, the full sensory engagement.

Yesterday afternoon, a group of friends showed up, ready to fill and wrap tamales. More friends came later, ready to eat, drink, and be merry. The house was filled with warmth and laughter.

If anyone noticed that we’d neglected to pull a single Christmas decoration out of the attic, no one mentioned it.

In the grand scheme of things, Tamale Week isn’t life changing. It’s not going to solve social injustice or reverse ecological destruction or change our national conversation in any way.

But food, prepared thoughtfully, offers us the chance for fellowship. A connection to traditions broader and richer than ourselves. The chance to make and do and be, and not just buy.

These small things, strung together, make a life.


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