TAMALADA HOLIDAY WRAPPING
Over the weekend I was in a warm kitchen stuffed with Christmas décor and emerging matriarchs doing their first tamale-making session: a tamalada. In artspeak, that is an Allan Kaprow “Happening” of participating performance artists sharing spontaneous spoken word narrative while practicing an assemblage of mixed organic materials that are a reference to ephemera Holiday folk traditions. In family-speak, it is gossip while prepping for dinner.
Helming the stove was my cousin, around my age, talking her daughters (and one high school age granddaughter) through the assembly line, a holiday wrapping tradition. It was their first attempt doing it as a team.
My Dad and my Tia (Aunt) supervised the passing of “the leaves,” the family nickname for husks. The head chef/ curator cousin offering me a sample of the roasted pork that had a long simmer in a homemade sauce the day before. "Good? Yea?" She asked. I nodded. The chili bit me back a bit, yet pulled out a deeply embedded flashback of a familiar flavor.
I asked my cousin if the sauce was her recipe. While sipping her beer during her ten second break from the heat, she gave a head nod toward my Aunt, her mom, my Dad's sister-in-law. Queen Tia was sitting down with a regal aura, and looked at me to say with a practiced casual authority, "It's your grandma's recipe."
"Is it written down?" I asked, hopefully. The Tia looked around kitchen of noise and masa, her eyes counted the brood of daughters that came after her: "No, but the girls got it now."
Next year I plan to smuggle the family secret across the California-Nevada border.
Carmen Lomas Garza, Tamalada, 1990, color lithograph, Smithsonian American Art Museum, (c) 1990, Carmen Lomas Garza, Museum purchase made possible by John B. Turner, 1997.5
José Guadalupe Posada, The Tamale, woodcut, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Jack Lord, 1971.439.7
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