Making Tamales with Mole Amarillo at Las Granadas

Magdalena comes through the turquoise front gate into the courtyard compound of Las Granadas carrying two bundles of corn stalks.  They are almost as tall as she is.  At first glance, this looks like the discards of the harvest that will be added to the compost pile.  But, NO!  After cutting off the long ends and soaking the stalks, they become the envelope for the most delicious tamales amarillo that we will eat for comida later that day.   The women of the family encircle the kitchen’s center island, a team of experienced and very talented cooks:  two mothers-in-law, Magda and Marina, and three adult sisters, Josefina, Rosalina and Natividad.  Nati is the youngest and a mother of two-year old Arnulfo.  Her husband has been working in the U.S. for almost two years and she hopes he comes home in the next four or six months.  That is the plan.  She misses him.

This is a traditional kitchen.  Everything is made from scratch and by hand.  Each morning the women go to the local market to shop for the fresh ingredients that will become our meals.  One of the documentary films that will be made this week will feature Magda who will prepare the corn and make tortillas from scratch using the ancient metate (stone grinder).  The joy of being in this house all week is to eat from this kitchen, breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Every morsel is made with care, love and regard for the food.  And, as guests, we applaud the art and work of women who give us this sustenance.

The masa is prepared into a ball of corn dough.  A small piece is torn off and rolled between the palms of Magda’s hands.  Marina uses a tortilla press to flatten the masa balls between two pieces of magenta plastic wrap.  The tortilla peels off easily.  She hands it to Magda who filled the pancake with mole and some pieces of cooked chicken.  Then, she takes a soft corn husk and artfully folds and wraps the tamale into a little package.  Later, a pile of tamales will be steamed in a big pot in the outdoor kitchen, just before we eat the midday meal at 3:30 p.m.  It is an assembly line production that takes several hours with many hands.

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