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The History of Tamales

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The History of Tamales

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Tamales can be traced back to Pre-Columbian history, when the Aztec women were taken along in battle as cooks for the army. There was a need to have a more portable yet sustainable food and the tamales could be made ahead of time, packed and warmed as needed.

Originally, the tamales were cooked by burying them in hot ashes, which made them crispy and brown. However, as time progressed, the Aztecs began to implement new methods for cooking, learned from the Spanish conquistadores. At which point, steaming the tamales in underground pits or in uncovered pots became the practice. When steaming the tamales, the Aztecs believed that the tamal sticking to the bottom of the pot was a sign of good luck, and would protect them of the dangers on the battleground.

The tamale changed in size, color, shape, and filling, depending on the location and the resources available. The wrappings varied from hoja de main, to soft tree bark, to edible leaves, such as those from avocados and bananas. Even fabric was sometimes used.

The most common variety is a tamal composed of masa (hominy flour dough) spread on a corn shuck and filled with either chicken, pork, beef, green chile, cheese, or, more recently, vegetables. Another thing that has changed is the use of the tamale as an every day food.

Today, the influence of the tamale has expanded beyond the Hispanic community and is loved by all cultures. The next time you eat tamales, hopefully you will appreciate not only the time and effort that went into making them, but also the history behind it.

See Also

Tamales Mary in Wyoming, (near Grand Rapids), which makes tamales every day, along with other Mexican cuisine such tacos, gorditas, pozole and menudo.
Tamales Mary,
located at 1253 Burton St SW, Wyoming, MI 49509.
Call Us Now to place your order (616) 288-5007

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