Adopted Mexican – Tamales


When I was stationed in England, I was the sergeant in charge of our Oral Surgery department.  I worked with two other assistants, both of Hispanic origin.  We were a great team, Dora, Gonzo and myself.  Gonzo was our muscle (and eye candy); he was also the youngest so he probably got a little more (s)mothering then he cared for.

Dora was definitely a homesick Texan, more than Texas, she missed her family (and their boxers).  Dora is also sentimental and a bit traditional in some ways.  My home sick Texan/Mexican decided that if she couldn’t be home for the holidays and tamale making, then she would just make it happen there in England.

Dora got it all organized, I’m sure I must have been a little more than pouty when I found out.  So sentimental Dora, my very own homesick Texan/Mexican, adopted me for tamale making.  Nobody shows up to tamale making without something, even adopted Mexicans.  Dora gave me some instructions on cooking some meat (I believe it was pork) with very explicit instructions to NOT throw the broth water away (it is used to flavor and moisten the masa).  And bring large pots please.


I arrived pork, broth and pots in hand.  We all crowded into Dora’s little base housing kitchen/dining area.  Dora orchestrated everything, Gonzo mixed the masa (told you he was the muscle) and the rest of us drank and rolled tamales.  What I discovered was that getting together to roll tamales wasn’t because it was so much work (although that’s part of it), getting together to roll tamales brings you closer, it makes you family even if you are adopted.  That day I felt Mexican and part of a big family.

Now that was a long, long time ago, almost 15 years ago…I think.  I haven’t attempted making a tamale since.  Naturally, when the Daring Cooks challenge came out and it was tamales, I was excited.  And then I was scared.  And then I was excited.  And then I was nervous.  And then I was excited.  And then I was intimidated.  Although I was an adopted Mexican, I needed a little more than that to rely on, so I put this out on Facebook:


Guess what?  I got a response!  It wasn’t from a large Hispanic family, and they didn’t bring the tequila (I provided that in the form of Beergaritas).  My dear Facebook friend Lorrie volunteered her Mexican mom and her half-Mexican self to help.  Lorrie and I have been Facebook friends for awhile and she’s a Kitchen Witch follower, but we had never met, I was hoping she was serious and she was hoping that I didn’t think she was being some kind of psycho stalker offering to help!


Lorrie and her mom were serious, and at my level of intimidation, I was willing to take the chance that they weren’t some psycho stalkers.  My adopted Mexican/half-Mexican family showed up and I had a great time!  The Beergaritas flowed, we ate biscochitos, chips and my home-made Winter Sals-tice and I learned a hell of lot from Martha.  I also learned what I had already done wrong, up to that point…

Tamales_010612_0149Tamales_010612_0154Tamales_010712_0104        Tamales_010712_0110Tamales_010712_0113Tamales_010712_0115Tamales_010712_0117Tamales_010712_0121


I learned to say maa-sa and not may-sa (which is a table – mesa), I learned how to de-seed dried chiles, I learned how to make chile sauce, I learned how to improvise a “steamer” set-up with coiled foil, I learned how to mix and spread masa on cornhusks, I learned how to fold and stack tamales so you don’t have to tie them, I learned you can make gorditas from left over masa, I learned that Mexican mom’s are always right and don’t waste anything, I learned that no matter who comes together to roll tamales, by the time it’s all said and done you are


Even if you are a homesick Texan/Mexican, a young strong Mexican, a Mexican mom, a half –Mexican psycho stalker Facebook friend or an adopted Mexican that just wants to make tamales!


Many thanks to Maranda of Jolts & Jollies she was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!  Maranda, it was not only a challenge of the most daring kind, it was a reminder of how wonderful getting together and being a family (of whatever kind of make-up) is.


I’m not leaving you with a recipe, because like any Mexican mom, Martha just had me put stuff in until it was “right”…1 5 lb. bag of masa, 1/2 brick of lard, some big spoonful’s of bacon fat, about that much salt and that much baking powder…you get the picture (we made over 5 dozen).  In the meantime, you can head over to the Daring Cooks and check out all the other tamale makers.  Next time I’ll try to write things down as we go.

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27 Responses to Adopted Mexican – Tamales

  1. Deanne January 14, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    I love this post. I wish that were my kitchen table covered in homemade tamales.

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Deanne, the bonus is I still have tamales in the freezer so I get to enjoy for a long time.

  2. Karen January 14, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    What a *great* post! Sounds like you had a really nice time putting these together. Love this post!

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      Karen, it was a nice time. It was what I call a “memory maker”.

  3. Eliot January 14, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    What a great time! I have another use now for our dried chilies!

  4. Jo January 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Felicidades por tu familia nueva! I love that you asked and received for help on Facebook, I didn’t think to add margaritas to my day of prep and assembly, fantastic job!

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      Jo, margaritas make everything better!

  5. Psycho Facebook Stalker January 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I LOVE this post!! The Psycho Facebook Stalker Friend thing is hilarious!! ahaha!! You are a trooper for taking all the correcting from my mom. *eye roll*. We had a blast! It was great to finally meet you.



    Your Devoted Psycho Facebook Stalker Friend,


    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      Lorrie, you and your mom were wonderful! Glad you took the psycho stalker reference well!

  6. Jen January 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I love that you adopted/were adopted by a Mexican family for this! Sounds like you had a great time!

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      Jen, adopting was definitely the right thing to do. Can’t wait for the next challenge, I might have to adopt another family 😉

  7. Colleen Bierstine January 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I’ve never had a tamale, and I guess they sort of confuse me. You don’t eat the corn husk right? And if so, what is their purpose?
    …What’s even in a tamale?
    Haha, I’m sorry. I’m so naive!

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

      Colleen, that’s right, you don’t eat the husk. It’s similar to using a banana leaf or maybe you can relate to this better, a cup cake liner 🙂 The good stuff is inside.

    • FineTexan September 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      President Gerald Ford when he visited San Antonio and the Alamo bit the tamale shuck and all. It was an international incident. Didn’t you hear about it? Ha Ha

  8. Heather @Gluten-Free Cat January 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    What a sweet experience! I want a Mexican family to adopt me!!! I love your photos. They are absolutely gorgeous, and you captured the moment perfectly.

    • Giggles January 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

      I have to give my son credit for the group shot, he did a great job catching us all different stages.

  9. Patri January 15, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Wow, such a nice experience! 🙂 I’m glad you had such a great time, I must do something like that next time, I needed someone mexican to tell me if what I did was like real tamales or not 🙂

  10. chef_d January 16, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Beautiful pictures, your tamales are perfect! Excellent job for this month’s challenge!

    • Giggles January 16, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      Thank you!

  11. Lea Ann January 16, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    Well at least I’ve been pronouncing Masa right all these years. I’ve never made tamales and I’ve been practically begging friends to get interested and plan a gathering. This is a great post and the tip about the broth to flavor the masa is priceless.

    • Giggles January 16, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Lea Ann, tempt them with the Margaritas…they will come 😉

    • FineTexan September 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      All kinds of interesting tamales have been made by friends and people who sell them at Christmas…like pork, beef, chicken, bean and cheese and sweet tamales with raisins, I once ordered some chicken tamales which had shredded carrots, celery and jalapenos. They were good and I have not forgotten them. There is nothing like a homemade tamale! The gathering to make them is called a tamalada.

  12. Barbara @ Barbara Bakes January 24, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Such a fun post. What a great way to make tamales and new friends/family.

  13. FineTexan September 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Since I am a real Texan I have made tamales several times and eaten them many times. One hint is to place a nickle in the bottom of the pot so that if it goes dry while you are steaming them it will rattle!

  14. FineTexan September 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I meant that it will STOP rattling if the water boils away! That way you can do other things than watch the pot! Just listen for the rattle.

  15. FineTexan September 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    You didn’t mention if the pork was a ‘cabeza’ or a hog’s head which is the traditional way to make tamales. I have never used one. I use the fatty pork shoulder and a lean pork roast. That way you have some pork fat because that makes a moist, succulent tamale. My fiance’s maid used to cook the head for us in a Nesco roaster and its snout would be sticking out under the lid.