Tamales: A delicious Christmas tradition in the middle of the valley | Local
Homemade tamales are a Christmas tradition for many Latin American families, and the Mid-Willamette Valley has several local businesses and individuals providing the delicious treat during the holidays.
Each tamal (the singular in Spanish) is stuffed and packaged with care, and the recipes are often passed down from generation to generation to allow people to connect with their families.
Preparation varies by region, but tamales are usually made from masa or dough, stuffed with filling, and steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapper can be used as a plate or thrown away before eating.
But how did tamales become a Christmas tradition? Well, in Mesoamerica, corn was once considered to be the precious substance and life, and it was believed that the gods created humans from corn. Thus, the wrapped tamales were part of the ritual offerings.
They were one of the earliest portable foods and were consumed by the Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, Toltecs, and Incas. In addition to being eaten at Christmas, tamales are an essential part of many life cycle events, such as baptisms, first communions, and wedding anniversaries.
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While many local tamale makers have stopped accepting orders this Christmas, tamales are available year-round and are equally delicious in the spring, summer, and fall. Here are three local places to support in the city:
Rommy Streicher lovingly makes frozen tamales for everyone to enjoy all year round, but they are especially popular during the holidays. Try the pork in red sauce, chicken in green sauce, cheese rajas, and two vegan options: vegetables and sweet pumpkin. Sabor tamales can often be found at the Holiday Farmers Market in Albany.
Located at Two Rivers Market, 250 SW Broadalbin St. in Albany and 922 NW Kings Blvd. in Corvallis, Taqueria Alonzo makes chicken and pork tamales for the holidays. Stay warm with the signature Champurrado, a chocolate-based atole, a hot and thick Mexican drink. If you come in person to the store, you can participate in the Christmas giveaway and the winner will be announced on Facebook on December 23.
Located at The Barn at Hickory Station, 640 NW Hickory St. in Albany, this food trailer offers authentic pupusas, with a variety of stuffing options, including vegan. Tamales are stuffed with chicken and wrapped in banana leaves, and in the winter you can sip vegan hot chocolate. Panes rellenos – Salvadoran-style smothered tortas – are also available.
Individuals often sell homemade tamales informally on Facebook. Post to your local Facebook group to see who’s serving up stuffed delicacies in their kitchens this holiday season, and maybe even after Christmas. For many families, tamales are eaten from the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe from December 12 through the Three Kings Day on January 6.
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Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.