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Tamales as Therapy

Celebration, Grief and the Rare Disappointment

· Our Stories,Mexican Classics,Your Stories,Supper Stories,Frugal Meals

The heart and soul of the Mexican kitchen is most beautifully displayed in the meals reserved for celebration. The dishes that are only made on certain days of the year, saved for certain holidays, events and festivities are the ones that everyone looks forward to. They’ve looked forward to them all year and it creates a beautiful phenomenon. By only having them on certain days, their memories now possess not only a visual, or even a scent, but also a flavor.

They also bring a certain amount of pressure. They are special, and there's a deep desire for them to be *right*. Nothing worse than being disappointed with the outcome. They take focus, concentration and attention to detail. They are worth it though, because the memories they create are priceless.

Christmas and Easter taste like tamales.

Weddings and Quinceañeras taste like birria or barbacoa.

New Year’s Eve tastes like Posole and Buñuelos…and tamales.

Birthdays taste like flan...and maybe tamales.

Epiphany tastes like Rosca de Reyes. (And maybe a plastic baby if you accidentally bite into it.)

“Dia de las Candelarias” (February 2nd) tastes like...yep, tamales. Especially if you found “El Niño” in la rosca because now you’re the one cooking them!

Dia de los Muertos tastes like Pan de Muerto …and tamales. (Sensing a theme yet?)

These are the treasures. The recipes people spend a lifetime perfecting (and sometimes messing up!) These are the ones mother’s *don’t* teach their kids to keep them coming home for holidays. The trademarks…the legacies.

They are exactly what tradition tastes like, tamales in particular.

We love tamales, and we aren't alone. They are iconic for a reason! In our home, they are the taste, smell and feel of so many holidays and celebrations. They are also a reminder of my precious father-in-law, who left us too soon, almost 2 years ago. His last food request was tamales. "I just want a tamal", he told me from his hospital bed. I went home and stayed up into the wee hours of the night to make them for him. He was gone less than 2 weeks later.

"I just want a tamal" spoke many things. The desire for comfort and good memories being at the top of that list. Tamales are the epitome of celebration food and yet, ironically, they are also the ultimate in grief counseling in my kitchen.

I'm not an emotional eater, but I'm an emotional cooker. Making tamales is the ultimate in therapy for me. Many a tears have been shed into masa. Countless anxieties processed and packed away as I wrapped hojas. Grief addressed as my home filled with the aroma of the joyful spirit of Mexico.

As I sit here, typing this out, eating my breakfast of leftover tamales, beans and queso fresco, I can't help but think of how my sweet Papa felt, eating his last tamal. He had to know it was. They were perhaps one of the only constants in his life. Predictable, faithful and only rarely disappointing. I'm forever grateful I could facilitate their presence when he needed it most.

While I gladly give most recipes for free, my recipe for tamales can be found in my e-cookbook, "Supper Stories, Vol 1", available HERE (scroll down). Any purchases made keep this site (and sometimes our homeschool) running. If you use coupon code "therapy" you'll get it for just $5.00. If you want the book and absolutely cannot afford it, please email me at or DM me on Instagram @oursupperstories. I don't want anyone to go without because of circumstance. I've been there. I get it girl. Shoot me a message.

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