January 6, 2009

How to eat tamales in February

The Christmas season in Mexico has been a wonderful long season of religious based customs enfolding the community which we have participated in second hand. The first part of this is Las Posadas which we are told is celebrated much more in mainland Mexico than here in Baja. It generally involves an extended family group, with part of the group representing the Virgin and St. Joseph outside at night with candles seeking room at the inn musically through the verses of a traditional Christmas carol. For their part the innkeeper group rejects their entreaties several times before letting them into the house, where the party continues with food, drink and piñata breaking. This kicks the season off on December 16.

Today we participated in the end of the Mexican Christmas celebration. Today is El Día de los Reyes or Epiphany (the last day of Christmas) and the day “we three kings of orient are” i.e., Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Here, as in many parts of the world, this is celebrated by eating a Three King’s cake. While in France with the Oldest Daughter, Esperando ate the galette des Rois. This is a kind of cake with a trinket or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" for a day.

Here in Mexico our Three King’s cake is called a rosca, which is defined in my Spanish dictionary as a pastry ring. Well it was a large pastry ring of a kind of mild fruit cake (not unlike a hot cross bun in flavor) with five baby Jesus’ baked into it. We had about 15 to 20 people at Esperando’s office who all came to have some cake. The trick is each person has to slice their own piece and if the knife cuts into a Baby Jesus or He is in the piece you get, then on February 2 you along with the other four chumps are responsible for bringing enough tamales to fed the same 15 to 20 people. Along with the cake we were served champurrado, a sort of a hot chocolate beverage which is made from maseca which is dough for flour tortillas which you then brown in a skillet (which thickens the beverage); milk; Mexican hot chocolate (a 3-inch round flat disk about ½-inch thick composed of chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds); and cocoa. The result is kind of a thickened hot chocolate that is not so sweet, but interesting and tasty.

February 2 (tamale D-day) is the Feast of Candelaria or Candlemas which is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. We were told by our assembled partygoers that the best place to buy tamales for this important day is in front of the church where a wholesale tamale undertaking is going on. I claimed one of the Baby Jesus’. I don’t know who organizes the tamale purchasing but I guess I will find out. Good grief!! A really excellent excuse to break the new diet and a validation for eating tamales to boot!!

If you want to know how to eat a tamale, click here.

1 comment:

Ayesha + Howard said...

The hot chocolate sounds delicious! I can't wait to come and visit!!