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The Art of Making: Tamales

Outside of consuming media, one of my favorite hobbies is cooking.

There is something about finding that perfect recipe, gathering all the ingredients needed, cracking my knuckles, and getting down to business… gives me such a rush and is relaxing at the same time. Now don’t get me wrong, I can fry a mean egg and whip up a killer batch of limoncello but I am far from Gordon Ramsay. I have my list of favorite recipes, ones that I must have at least once a year, but I am always on the hunt to expand that list. Today we will be discussing one such addition: Peruvian Tamales!

Enter center stage: a former restaurant owner and an enormous fan of passing down her art form… Tia!

Tia blending Peruvian Corn in the blender

Tia means Aunt in Spanish and although I have no familial relation to Tia, our love of cooking brought us together. She has been providing some of the best meals to her house guest over the last twenty years. Recently,  I was fortunate enough to not only taste test some of those meals but also learn from her first hand how to make a dish or two. 

We had one major problem: a language barrier…

She only speaks Spanish and I can only speak English. High school Spanish classes are a distant memory at this point and my days of watching telenovelas are long gone, however, with her leading by example we were able to get just enough of an understanding to make a seriously big batch of tamales.

Tia washing the corn


Big pot of tamale mix

I must of heard her say “Mírame y mira lo que hago” about a dozen or so times… roughly translated it means “Look at me and watch what I am doing” (Thanks Google translate). All the while, a joke that I was attempting to make was asking ¿Más o menos? after every “dash” of salt we would add to the mixture… needless to say she didn’t think it that was all that funny (still working on my Dad Jokes).

With the corn mixture all finished, we set it aside for later and softened up some corn husk. A surprisingly simple process of boiling water and then placing the leaves in the pot till they were almost soft enough to fall apart. 

Mountain of corn husks

After several hours and quite a few misunderstanding she taught me the art of making the perfect Peruvian Tamale, something that I am proud to bring back home to my family and friends. Here is a short clip of us wrapping up the tamales together and an example of my broken Spanish: 

Wait did I say that there was only one problem…. better make that two. 

I’m sure by now you must be asking: where the heck is the recipe?!?!? I am going to be the bearer of bad news here and let you know that there really isn’t one. Tia was taught by her mother and her mother was taught by her mother and so on and so forth, so in terms of a formal recipe for making authentic Tia Tamales… we are all kind of out of luck. There will never truly be a way to recreate these tamales and maybe just maybe that’s okay. 

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