Books for Cooks
Tamales by Daniel Hoyer
Deck the halls with steamy corn husks
I was pretty excited to have Hoyer’s latest book cross my desk. For one, his guides to Mexican cuisine are thorough and inspiring. And this is the best time of year for a book about tamales.
Growing up, my mother would sometimes include me in preparing Mexican dishes. We lived in different countries that at the time made procuring chiles and other ingredients difficult at best. But with the help of stateside relatives, packages of corn husks and mole would arrive in the mail. My mother would gather together with the other Mexican women in our community, each contributing skills and ingredients, filling our kitchen with lively banter that blended English and Spanish seamlessly enough to allow even my father to follow the conversation—if he dared enter the cocina.
From these gatherings came tamales, biscochitos and other treats that delighted me and our non-Mexican neighbors. In those days, in places far from New Mexico, real Mexican food was fairly exotic and drew curious and fascinated folks to our table in droves. These occasions instilled a strong cultural pride in me--there was something really cool about being Mexican.
Quite in line with the nature of tamales and their endless possibilities, Hoyer encourages readers to experiment by creating their own fillings and sauces.
Hoyer manages to capture this sentiment in his guide to tamales. He encourages readers to put on their own tamale-making parties, called tamaladas, not only because such gatherings make short work of the many steps involved in creating tamales, but for the camaraderie that inevitably results from a crowded kitchen.
He takes his time with this book, carefully explaining all the steps, ingredients and equipment. Hoyer goes into great detail over masa preparation and various wrapping techniques. He even provides step-by-step pictures to take some of the mystery out of these delicious bundles. Numerous recipes can double as taco or burrito fillings, which gives the book some versatility.
Hoyer pays tribute to the vast array of cultures and traditions that comprise Latin America, sharing recipes from New Mexico to Guatemala. Quite in line with the nature of tamales and their endless possibilities, Hoyer encourages readers to experiment by creating their own fillings and sauces. Using his book as a guide, even novices should have no trouble mastering tamales and inventing their own twists on this most loved and celebrated treat.
In many Latin communities, tamales are prepared and served to guests on Christmas Day. New Mexico is no exception. As in other parts of the world, friends and family are greeted with platters of tamales fresh from the steamer. The care and time required to produce them shows just how much trouble your loved ones are worth. Start by inviting your friends and family to your kitchen. Divide the steps and maybe pour some Margaritas. When you're making tamales, working together feeds more than just tummies.