Published on July 26th, 2012 | by TLV News0
“My First Everything: Hot Tamales” (by Vera P., from TLV #161)
I noticed the sign “Hot Tamales” in the window of a small white booth, on one of these melting hot days of my first summer in Arkansas. The other sign said “Shaved Ice.” Why in the world would somebody shave the ice? Does it grow a beard? And why are they selling ice together with some hot food with the Mexican name? Everything was too strange for me to understand at once. Later I learned about shaved ice and hot tamales, but never tried neither one.
Much later, when we already lived in Oxford, I got a fat chance to watch how hot tamales were cooked-and to taste them! My son had a friend—a very nice, big and strong Mexican guy. The summer before their senior year in Oxford High they decided to start a small business.
My son came to me and said with the most darling smile he could master, “Mom, do you mind if Gary and I will use your kitchen—only once—to cook hot tamales? We already have a recipe and we want to sell them for a dollar a piece to construction workers! We are going to make good money, we already made a business plan!”
If you know me personally, you probably noticed that I am a patient and very curious woman. Sometimes that combination brings me somewhere where I honestly do not have to be. I said, “Yes, sure! I always dreamed of trying me some real hot tamales!”
And the nightmare started. Our tiny apartment kitchen was quickly filled up with huge pots, packages of ground beef, bags of onions, corn husks, chili peppers, tomatillos, spices, and some other exotic vegetables. Boys wanted to use my brand new birthday gift blender. I suspiciously asked what for, and they said it was for blending garlic, onions, and something else not less smelly! I exclaimed, “NO! I use my shiny blender for noble purpose of morning fruit smoothies only,” so they had to run to Wal-Mart and buy a new one.
All four eyes of the vintage electric stove were set on “high,” something bubbled, splashed and smelt like burnt flesh, it was getting hot, AC was barely making it, the electric meter ran a marathon…
After tamales were cooked, individually wrapped up in the aluminum foil and placed layer after layer in the deep pans, happy cooks drove around town and sold a majority of them, but we still ate the leftovers all next day. And a day after next…Would you be surprised, if I say that for a long time I couldn’t hear about hot tamales without shivers down my spine?
Cooking, cleaning, and selling took 24 hours straight. A profit came out as $10.00 altogether. (I do not count $30.00 extra on my next power bill).
Some electric wires went off in the process, so I had to call a handyman. When he walked into my kitchen which still smelt rich and spicy, big pots everywhere, he looked around and asked with a light shade of sarcasm, “What the hell happened here?”
And all I could say through tears and laughter was, “HOT TAMALES!”