Tamales: A Christmastime tradition
December 24, 2019 10:01 PM   Subscribe

 
Yay! I'm so glad you posted this!
posted by primalux at 10:03 PM on December 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also I love the video about tamales in Mississippi. Being from the south and having a very multiracial family, it's very cool to see.
posted by primalux at 10:15 PM on December 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


We were going to get tamales for dinner. They weren't open today... :(
posted by Windopaene at 10:21 PM on December 24, 2019


I always forget to pre-order tamales until it's too late 😭 One year in San Antonio I did take my licks and stand in line for an hour for walk-up orders at Delicious Tamales.
posted by muddgirl at 10:27 PM on December 24, 2019


Wait, there are tamale stores other places? You dont just have roaming tamale sellers? You dont have the number of a tamale guy you meet in a parking lot?? Weird.

Next you'll be telling me you dont have local facebook groups where you can buy homemade bowls of poke or bibingka from random people either.
posted by fshgrl at 11:07 PM on December 24, 2019 [13 favorites]


I remember the first time I bought tamales out the back of a complete stranger's station wagon in a Safeway parking lot after she came up to me. Good times. Nobody tell my Mom though she'd faint.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:32 AM on December 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


This is a fantastic post! Thank you!
posted by Laetiporus at 4:08 AM on December 25, 2019


(This echoes the "should white people make/eat sushi?" debate back in 2013.)

The LA Times article rightly notes that "the topic of cultural appropriation is both big and nuanced".

Unfortunately, that nuance often gets lost, especially online – and the standard becomes "don't ever do anything which is associated with a culture other than your own".

It doesn't seem to matter whether you're doing it with sincerity, respect, or the involvement/approval of people from that culture. (Twitter hot takes don't have time for context.)

And, like...I try to take charges of cultural appropriation seriously, but I just can't get on board with this simplistic version of the argument. The logical consequence is that certain cultural artifacts – foods, fashions, etc. – will "belong" forever to one specific group of people.

And that reeks of cultural and racial essentialism. (And of the same false, essentialist notion of "authenticity" that regularly gets decried on MetaFilter.)

Anyway – who gets to draw the boundaries around different cultural groups? Who gets to say which people are Mexican enough to make tamales? Can a second-generation Japanese-American make sushi, if they were raised in American culture and have never set foot in Japan? (If so: what entitles them to that right? Because if the answer is "the blood in their veins", then that seems like a 100% racialist argument.)

Cultural admixture has always been one of the main sources of cultural innovation. Food, fashion, art, religion, language: when different groups of people come together, they're going to borrow and reinterpret and adapt each other's ideas. Almost every single dish that we eat, word that we speak, and tradition that we practice is a result of this process. There is no "pure" form of any given culture. (Even Mexican cuisine itself is a melting pot of various pre-Columbian and European traditions.)

This borrowing and riffing can be done in ethical ways, or it can be done in ways that injure the less powerful culture – but I don't think it should be forbidden on principle, and certainly not solely on a racial basis. We couldn't stop this process, and freeze cultures in amber, even if we wanted to. (And, again: if we were going to do this, who gets to decide? Who says what the "authentic" forms are? Who says who owns them?)

On most matters, I'm a shrieking purple-haired SJW, but this is one of the rare instances where even I have to shake my head at Political Correctness Run Amok™.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:14 AM on December 25, 2019 [58 favorites]


In Chile we get humitas at the local street produce market. No roaming bands of humita sellers, alas.
posted by signal at 4:31 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Who should be making and selling tamales?

For me, the answers are:

1) made by an abuelita who has them in a cooler and who is selling them in a parking lot of a grocery store, sold by that abuelita's 9-year-old great-grandkid who's just going up to strangers and going "Do you want to buy tamales?"

2) a Mexican food place that's been in business for over 30 years

I mean, sure, there are clearly other people who are allowed to make and sell tamales, but lots of those "anybody can make tamales!"-tamales will be ones I will not want to buy
posted by 23skidoo at 5:38 AM on December 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


It doesn't seem to matter whether you're doing it with sincerity, respect, or the involvement/approval of people from that culture.

I think it does, though? Like, in those contexts it's OK. The white guy learning to make tamales at home is not the problem. It's the white guy with no connection to the background owning a food truck and drumming up lots of press for his "simultaneously authentic--yet unique!" deep fried sushi tamales wrapped in kale that's the issue. Or the classic example of someone wearing a feather headdress for Halloween. People who are using their privilege in both subtle and overt ways to spread offensive and inaccurate representation of cultural traditions. I don't think the problematic cases are as murky as the anti-anti cultural appropriation critics make them out to be.
posted by schroedinger at 6:28 AM on December 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


Ever since I learned that the singular of tamales is tamal, every conversation I have/article I read about tamales irritates me. Yes, language changes, etc., but it seems it would be nice if our dominant culture could learn enough about things we appropriate to talk about them with the right words. I kind of want to start a movement to reclaim tamal but I'm too pathetic to start a movement, I think. Also lots of Latinx people use tamale (like the article) so I'm probably just being a jerk.

Anyway, I love tamales and making them is super fun.
posted by medusa at 6:47 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


You May Know Them As Tamales, But In These Countries They’re Known As Something Else

Not...really?

In the Michoacan example they show corundas. In Michoacan they are known as...corundas. There's also 'tamales' and they look like what most people think of. What there is is much more variation in tamales such as tamales nejos or tamales de elote and quite a few more.
posted by vacapinta at 7:09 AM on December 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


When I lived in Phoenix the thing to do was to drive down to South Mountain which is where all the best tamales were being sold, out of coolers from the backs of cars. Tamales are so fucking labor intensive to make, I was always happy to pay money to get them pre-made by hand than to make them myself.

I have made them myself, several times, and it's always an all-day task full of attention. I've never done a tamale-making party, but I could see how that would spread the labor around and be social and make the process fun.
posted by hippybear at 7:51 AM on December 25, 2019


Is she — a white woman who married into a Mexican family — appropriating her husband’s culture by selling tamales?

I can't think of a more appropriate question for Metafilter to get all obsessed about. (Short cut answer: of course not. There is no "appropriating her husband's culture", only "honoring my husband's culture".)

As the last link and the LA Times article notes, tamales are quite adaptable. Are Mississippi Red Hot Tamales made by African Americans authentic? Appropriation? Pretty sure you'd be laughed out of most Mississippi tamale joints if you asked that question. I imagine somewhere in LA a Korean taco stand is selling bulgogi pork and kimchi tamales for Christmas and damn, that sounds good.

A full traditional tamalada is an amazing thing. So much work! I love that Mo Rocca did an earnest documentary about it. Also reminded of the dumpling making scene in Crazy Rich Asians. I will gratefully eat any tamales offered to me, but tamales made by aunts and grandmas at Christmas have a particular taste of love and intense labor.
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on December 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


I guess using the LA Times title as the first link is a bit of a framing issue as the author herself doesn't make the question a big deal in the end.

No one in this post has questioned the authenticity of the tamales made by African Americans in Mississippi. This is a sincere post celebrating a tradition.

We don't need to make this a thought exercise on what is or isn't cultural appropriation.

Holding this space for people to share experiences with this tradition, nothing more. Thanks.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:05 AM on December 25, 2019 [29 favorites]


I just remembered the fact that the Mississippi tamales makers said someone bought the recipe from directly before they used it. Giving credit where credit is due. To contrast, in the LA Times article, she links to the news about two white women watching people in Baja make their tortillas through the window, implying that they didn't ask for permission or give them credit. This to me is a stark difference.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:22 AM on December 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


Can a second-generation Japanese-American make sushi, if they were raised in American culture and have never set foot in Japan? (If so: what entitles them to that right? Because if the answer is "the blood in their veins", then that seems like a 100% racialist argument.)

First of all this post is about tamales and literally anyone including white people can make sushi (we're just allowed to also talk about who profits from it and who never got the chance to profit from it because people can discuss things). But also maybe learn anything about how immigrant/diaspora cultures work because the source country is not the one true arbiter of what is right and true. And if you're going to drag Japanese Americans into a post about tamales, maybe also learn something about our culture and what "second generation" means to us (hint: the majority of 2nd gen JAs were young adults in the early 1940s, so this is hardly a baggage-free example you're blithely wading into here). And finally, if you can pull up an fpp from 2013, surely you're also aware of the many discussions of cultural appropriation we've had on this site. No links cause it's Christmas, do your own research. Peace
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:30 AM on December 25, 2019 [33 favorites]


> Can a second-generation Japanese-American make sushi, if they were raised in American culture and have never set foot in Japan? (If so: what entitles them to that right? Because if the answer is "the blood in their veins", then that seems like a 100% racialist argument.)

skipping absolutist attempts to determine Once and For All other people's identities, I've heard tell there's also the desire to connect to one's heritage just to feel Some Kind of Connection to a bigger sense of family and community and identity after being born and raised in a country that has repeatedly discriminated not just socially but legally against one's racial group, which gets at something a lot more complex than the 100% racialist straw man (straw blood percentage?) argument you've proposed here, but ymmv
posted by rather be jorting at 9:36 AM on December 25, 2019 [17 favorites]


One of my earliest memories is of my mother pulling us two kids on a sled in the falling snow to a local grocery store to buy tamales in glass jars. There were about 6 tamales per jar, each wrapped in a piece of oily wax paper. The meat filling did not resemble any known meat, and my adult self knows they must have been absolutely horrible, but boy, I loved them, and am pretty sure no one's culture was appropriated. Now I buy better tamales at gas stations and they are still a joy of my life.
posted by acrasis at 9:46 AM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


[Hey, if you think an argument is sort of dumb and doesn't apply here, maybe don't be the person to start that argument? Everyone else, let's stick to discussing tamales in general and Christmas tamales in specific. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:48 AM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've honestly never worried about what anyone called a single tamal/tamale, because why would anyone need to refer to just one? They are the original party food - labor-intensive, made communally, and served as a ceremonial meal.
posted by muddgirl at 9:48 AM on December 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


On most matters, I'm a shrieking purple-haired SJW, but this is one of the rare instances where even I have to shake my head at Political Correctness Run Amok™.

Please keep your thought exercises outside of PoC spaces. Your comments are a complete affront. Political correctness has nothing to do with the issues in this post, and you'd be keen to hold space and back off. Claiming to be a SJW with Purple hair doesn't give you culture cred. It's odd that you mention the color of your hair as if it's a thing.

"don't ever do anything which is associated with a culture other than your own". Nope. Not what anyone has said here.

who gets to draw the boundaries around different cultural groups? Not you. So don't ask this question.

Please, leave us alone.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:56 AM on December 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


Respectfully, people who are arguing don't think the argument is dumb. People think it's their God given right and privilege to police PoC spaces when they have nothing to do with the spaces. White people think they have the right to argue about anything under the sun for the sake of an intellectual exercise because they risk nothing. If you ain't got skin in the game, leave.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:59 AM on December 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


As a second-generation Japanese myself, I find your rhetorical question ignorant. I'd like to discuss more, but I am tired of using my emotional energy to school ignorant people who could be curious and open and respectful and ask honest questions rather than "gotcha" straw man arguments. Read some books/memoirs by PoC. Listen and stop talking so much. Worry about your own ish.
posted by jj's.mama at 10:04 AM on December 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I think some of this stuff about fusion cuisine kale wrapped deep fried sushi tamale or whatever gets into 'when is a tamale no longer a tamale' - like, there's a 'fallacy of the beard' argument about where along the path from tamale through to things like stuffed grape leaves does the food leave the actual topic of tamale as you roam through the world and different cultures have their take on this (like, most cultures have their own take on dumplings/ravioli/samosa/etc).
posted by rmd1023 at 10:12 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


The writer is Patricia Escárcega, her heritage is in her bio.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on December 25, 2019


(This echoes the "should white people make/eat sushi?" debate back in 2013.)

You literally had nothing to say about this topic except referencing a FPP from 2013 and making a big overly-general, overly-simplified screed about cultural appropriation in general, and then dragging in Japanese-American people as collateral damage in your attempt to blow up a strawman? Like, I'm sorry that you can't seem to understand people celebrating and valuing tamales as part of their heritage. Maybe it is okay for you to sit back, and listen, instead of amplifying the tiny tiny tiny element you can relate to and have opinions on as a way to interject into this space. In fact, I will note that the strawman that you raised about cultural appropriation not being okay even with approval is directly challenged by the links themselves, which talk about Black people making tamales through a long and shared history, so I would encourage you to actually spend some time on meeting PoC at the level they're actually thinking and engaging about this topic instead of yammering on about the abstract notion of cultural appropriation on your soapbox over there. Jesus hell, like everyone else here, I have no spoons to spend on educating your ignorant, disruptive ass on this.
posted by Conspire at 10:34 AM on December 25, 2019 [24 favorites]


Does Doña Angela have a video of her making tamales? Of course she does. Tamales de Carne en Chile Rojo De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina
posted by Nelson at 10:35 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had a lot more of a comment that I wanted to write about being Mexican-American, being a shitty cook, and the prospect of settling down with a white woman who actually enjoys cooking, but... someone suggesting that people lose their culture after a couple generations spent living in the US is one of the most wildly racist things I have seen proposed by someone on Metafilter that has been allowed to stand and I am really not okay right now.
posted by Sequence at 11:08 AM on December 25, 2019 [27 favorites]


Who should be making and selling tamales?


Anyone who wants to. The caveat is they have to taste good or no one will eat them.

It's just food. I come from this holiday tradition but its just food.
posted by Max Power at 11:09 AM on December 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I had a lot more of a comment that I wanted to write about being Mexican-American, being a shitty cook, and the prospect of settling down with a white woman who actually enjoys cooking, but... someone suggesting that people lose their culture after a couple generations spent living in the US is one of the most wildly racist things I have seen proposed by someone on Metafilter that has been allowed to stand and I am really not okay right now.

I would love to hear if you would still like to share! I feel the same way but it'd be great to rerail and not let that suck up all the air in the room.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:22 AM on December 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm feeling like a lot of people didn't even read the first link - where she discusses the long, varied history of many races and ethnicities who have made and sold tamales in the U.S. and ends with "The advice I gave to my friend: Fill yourself with appreciation and respect for the dish’s long history and the cultures that gave it to us. Then go forth and make tamales."

Literally no one is saying that people can't make tamales based on their race or background. The article starts with that as a question and comes to the conclusion that a bunch of people seem to think she should have come to, that anyone can make tamales, so I don't understand what the issue is.
posted by primalux at 11:34 AM on December 25, 2019 [18 favorites]


And also the person ASKING the question was white - which I think is a nice, respectful way for these conversations to happen, even if you think as a white person you *should* be allowed to, checking is always the kind, respectful thing to do and is it really that much of a burden??
posted by primalux at 11:40 AM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


The first link has a fascinating link in it to an article about a tamale seller from Afghanistan in Wyoming. They were a food trend of the 1890s, how cool! Thanks for posting this, I had no idea tamales were a Christmas thing and am looking forward to digging into the rest of the links.
posted by sepviva at 5:12 PM on December 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


For years I hated tamales because I thought they were impossible to eat. Then one day grumpybearbride made Trader Joes tamales and proceeded to unwrap the corn husk. I immediately felt like the most stupid person on Earth.

Merry Christmas!
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:18 PM on December 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


psa, please remove husks
posted by anem0ne at 7:00 PM on December 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


I did not grow up in proximity to tamale making but this reminds me of a story I think about whenever I make bread dough while wearing my engagement ring: Too Many Tamales.
posted by arabidopsis at 7:31 PM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


For once could I beg you to give up argument.

I'm super happy right now because my tummy is full of tamales. My chosen Mexican mama brought me tamales, that HER mother made, for me, a Sicangu Lakota gringa-looking person. I'm not appropriating: I'm wishing all y'all a feliz navidad.
posted by blessedlyndie at 8:45 PM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I missed this essay on tamales that a friend shared on her FB. "Why Chicanos Eat Tamales on Christmas"
posted by jj's.mama at 11:42 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


but I don't think it should be forbidden on principle, and certainly not solely on a racial basis

Who's doing the forbidding on Twitter? The whites? Safe to ignore. People of that food making community? All of them? Probably not. And for those that do: Consider why they might do so. Ever been made fun of for the food you eat? Had it become a food fad that suddenly everyone has an opinion on? Tried to swim against the currents of assimilation in these United States? Do they have the power to enforce their wishes in the current racial framework we live in?

On most matters, I'm a shrieking purple-haired SJW, but this is one of the rare instances where even I have to shake my head at Political Correctness Run Amok™.

Has shaking your head publicly here on the internet led to more justice, or caused a bunch of PoC in the thread to go on defense? I'd rather hear more about nuanced, ethical ways to riff or borrow. The first link the original post was good on nuance.


In any case, my Mexican abuela's tamales are the best and no one else can compare. My Filipino-American ma learned from her, and they were the best as well. Different, though. Were because she made them once for ourselves. Family dynamics to contemplate there. There's no measured recipe my abuela follows and I haven't got the time to gain the intuition she has for proportions. The flavor and texture may go with her.
posted by Mister Cheese at 11:59 PM on December 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


discussing tamales in general and Christmas tamales in specific

Okay, so I grew up in El Paso, which due to it being a border town, is down with Christmas Tamales. My dad would always have big fat tamales (like some tamales are small, about the size of a large hotdog, but these tamales were fat, like the size of a HotPocket almost) that he would pre-order from a very specific Mexican food place (can't remember the name for the life of me) and they'd always order waaaay more tamales than people. Like if there were 9 of us eating Christmas dinner, there'd be 4 dozen tamales. That meme about "10 people coming for Christmas dinner? Better make 50,000 tamales" is accurate because, like many other holiday-associated foods, the whole point is to have waaaay too much of the food item around so you can have leftovers. Growing up, you just had to have at least one tamale, but honestly you were expected to have at least 2 tamales, one pork one and one of the chicken ones. I do love a good Christmas tamale.

Like about 5 years ago, me and my gf were trying to decide what to bring to her family's Christmas dinner. (Backstory: This family had very specific rules about what foods were allowed at Christmas, and also Thanksgiving dinner. Like one year I suggested we bring mashed potatoes to next year's Thanksgiving, as I noticed that it hadn't been there. That's when I learned that there was some sort of Longstanding Potato Salad Feud and one of the feud members had since died and somehow mashed potatoes got caught in the cross fire and that's why we couldn't bring mashed potatoes to Thanksgiving: because my gf's family had Mashed Potatoes filed under Things You Just Can't Bring To A Holiday Meal for Reasons.) And I suggest that we bring tamales, and I'm like all puffed up, ready to have to defend my suggestion like "Tamales are a food associated with Christmas, I refuse to be told we can't bring tamales for Reasons, and if nobody wants to eat up our tamales, we'll just take them all back home and eat them up ourselves" and my gf was like "haha, okay, let's bring tamales". Her family's all white, but some of them have some Latino culture or were born in Mexico or something like that, and one of the guys in her family like that was excited to see tamales at Christmas dinner that year, noting that he really missed having tamales at Christmas like he had growing up, and I was like "I do too, that's why we brought these this year". Something about "a shit ton of good tamales as part of a holiday meal" really seems Christmassy to me in the same way that "snow on the ground and pressed sugar cookies and kids running around" might seem Christmassy to someone else.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:17 AM on December 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


We have two Tamale Ladies in our little town of 16,000. One who is widely known and sells her wares out of a fancy booth at the Farmers Market. Her tamales are "Okay, I Guess." The other makes her weekly rounds downtown selling piping hot tamales in five varieties out of a couple coolers in her car. Her tamales are freaking amazing.

I have made the pilgrimage to Los Hernandez in Union Gap, and it was definitely worth the trip. I think we brought 12 dozen back in the coolers?
posted by xedrik at 6:46 AM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Talking about tamales is like snacking about architecture.
posted by signal at 7:24 AM on December 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


On most matters, I'm a shrieking purple-haired SJW, but this is one of the rare instances where even I have to shake my head at Political Correctness Run Amok™.
Has shaking your head publicly here on the internet led to more justice, or caused a bunch of PoC in the thread to go on defense? I'd rather hear more about nuanced, ethical ways to riff or borrow. The first link the original post was good on nuance.


cultural appropriation isn't something purple-haired metafilter discusses well.
posted by anem0ne at 9:00 AM on December 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


Just another purple-haired-SJW-MeFite doing a drive-by in a PoC space. Haven't heard a peep from them since. They probably haven't seen how hurt PoC were by their concern-trolling and all out ignorance and weak reading comprehension of the article in question. What a damn shame a bunch of us wasted our energy on this on Christmas to boot. But it's typical. Walk into a space that you think you own, shit, and leave.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your tamale stories.
posted by jj's.mama at 11:21 AM on December 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Ever since I learned that the singular of tamales is tamal

I discovered this only after asking my Latino partner why he kept pronouncing tamale incorrectly. He still teases me about it.
posted by WhenInGnome at 1:29 PM on December 26, 2019


If you ain't got skin in the game, leave.

If a front page thread is intended to be commented on by a subset of MeFites only, grateful if that could be pointed out up front.
posted by inire at 1:34 PM on December 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


Skin in the game refers to tamales having a place in one’s history. That’s the subset. It’s in the title: Tamales: A Christmastime tradition It’s been clarified several times, including a Mod comment. How did you miss that?
posted by lemon_icing at 1:55 PM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Tamal or Tamale?

This got (re)posted on Twitter on Christmas and it inspired a lot of debate etc.

Thread here: https://twitter.com/GustavoArellano/status/1209483509309378560
posted by chaz at 2:05 PM on December 26, 2019


I once had a fellow white co-worker who complained about someone bringing tamales as a christmas gift and that he didn't really understand why. I told him - if someone thinks well enough of you to bring you hand made tamales that they and their ma and granny sweated over - you sit down, thank your lucky stars and enjoy the damn tamales. (They were pretty good tamales, too... I would have stolen his share)
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:58 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Skin in the game refers to tamales having a place in one’s history. That’s the subset. It’s in the title: Tamales: A Christmastime tradition It’s been clarified several times, including a Mod comment. How did you miss that?

Yes, that’s obviously the subset. What was not obvious prior to the poster’s ‘skin in the game’ comment (because it wasn’t referenced in the title, the post, the mod comment, or other comments in the thread) was any expectation that MeFites outside that subset should ‘leave’ i.e. refrain from commenting in the thread.

I have no objection to posters making posts that are not intended to be open to comments from people outside a particular group, but I’d be grateful if that could be said upfront in the post itself.
posted by inire at 3:08 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to take a moment to point up something mentioned in passing in the first link of the OP:

The rather amazing story of Hot Tamale Louie, who grew up near the Khyber Pass on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Born Zarif Khan, he came to the American West by way of Bombay and ended up selling tamales in Sheridan, Wyoming for decades. He sold tamales from pails, then a cart, then a downtown establishment still remembered fondly. In the end he became an American citizen (overcoming rather bizarre bureaucratic obstacles), reasonably well off, and something of a civic institution in northeast Wyoming--until he was unexpectedly murdered by a distant relative on a visit back home in 1964.

So none of the words in that rather lengthy sentence--except maybe "hot"--are ones you would ever really expect to be put together with "tamale". Nevertheless: posted by flug at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


tamales aren't something metafilter discusses well.

as far as i can tell, the "skin in the game" comment is targeted at purple-haired people who come in and threadshit dismissively about cultural appropriation, when the links in the fpp and the framing itself are deliberately meant to be inclusive, expansive, and how the authenticity/appropriation discussion isn't exactly what it's about, but rather the open tradition of christmastime, holiday tamales.

are you one of those purple-haired sjw threadshitters? no? do you have knowledge of tamales or christmastime traditions of tamales? then it's not trying to exclude you. but like, if you want to be excluded, i guess you can be?

who knew that tamale discussions could be so toxic?
posted by anem0ne at 5:01 PM on December 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


If a front page thread is intended to be commented on by a subset of MeFites only, grateful if that could be pointed out up front.

Does it really need to be said that racist tirades that have nothing to do with the actual content of the links, just perceived slights that aren't part of the discussion, should probably not be posted?

And do we really have to debate the respectability of saying "please go away" when your racist tirade has clearly triggered traumatic reactions from a dozen PoC mefites to the point that people literally don't feel comfortable sharing their stories anymore? This isn't neutral. Stop pretending it's neutral, and that you have some kind of high ground here over the uppity minorities who didn't make the rules clear enough from the start.
posted by Conspire at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2019 [17 favorites]


I mean I think the main in-group here is just "don't be a dick"
posted by rather be jorting at 5:17 PM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Just don't be a dick
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


[Just a quick PSA then hopefully can steer back toward knowledgable people talking about tamales. To address the meta question about stipulating participation: We've asked in the new Community Guidelines for members who belong to a dominant group to consciously take extra care when entering a thread about a subject that affects members who belong to a marginalized group. There's not going to be an explicit "you must be at least this x to participate" sign every time. Instead, when there's a thread that mainly touches a marginalized group that you're not a part of, pause and reflect about whether that's a good place to bring your first thoughts on one sentence of the post -- and if you are going to comment, think about commenting on something you found worthwhile or illuminating, and maybe skip the reflexively skeptical or negative take. Site history shows it's very easy to accidentally step awkwardly or offensively into a topic that has a whole lot of history and heat behind it, and then people who do belong to the relevant group are going to have feelings about that, and might express them. (Getting accustomed to doing this reflection is something we're asking dominant-group members to do more often, so I know for some readers this might be the first time they're seeing this.) But with all this said -- that's where things stand, and I'm gonna ask that we steer it back toward tamales and Christmas traditions around them.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:34 PM on December 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


When my parents decided to leave Canada, they chose Chicago. They found a good-sized brownstone in Lincoln Park around Armitage & Racine. It wasn't posh in those days; it was solid middle-class with some starving artists, and a healthy, vibrant Mexican neighborhood. It was comfortable for us, we blended in: Filipino/Spanish and a smatter of Italian and Chinese.

At summer break, I started after school tutoring at the local church (my parents are super Catholic) for 8 & 9 year olds. By Christmas, I had made friends with their families. The student tutors received gifts of Christmas and red pork tamales. We'd never had them before. My family ate the whole lot in under 10 minutes. After we stopped burping, Dad ran to the grocery store and we all sat down to roll a mountain of eggrolls and lumpia.

Snow gear on, they marched us to my student's home, thanked for the delicious, and offered what we had. Mom made friends that first Christmas in Chicago, we got new titos and titas, and learned how to make tamales properly.

Fast forward 15 years: I'm picking up odd bartending shifts in a neighborhood club called Lucky Number. It's after midnight when I see one of my old students come in carrying two chilly bins: they are full fresh tamales he's selling for $1 each. He makes it in 5 yards and he's sold out. He becomes our regular vendor. I think those tamales might have saved lives. Me and the other staff made the really drunk folks eat, hoping they either sober up or fall into a sleepy food coma.

My mother still meets for tea once a year with the last of her first neighborhood friends, even though my folks have moved into a retirement community.
posted by lemon_icing at 8:33 PM on December 26, 2019 [36 favorites]


^^^^THIS is the kind of comment I wish this post was full of. Thank you for sharing lemon_icing.
posted by primalux at 8:43 PM on December 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


> The LA Times article rightly notes that "the topic of cultural appropriation is both big and nuanced".

Unfortunately, that nuance often gets lost, especially online – and the standard becomes "don't ever do anything which is associated with a culture other than your own".


The full sentence from the LA Times article reads: "The topic of cultural appropriation is both big and nuanced; every incident deserves thoughtful consideration."

It's somewhat ironic to see the latter portion of that sentence omitted, as the emphasis on thoughtful consideration is crucial here. Narrowing the scope of potential discussion by introducing absolutist statements such as "the standard becomes 'don't ever do anything which is associated with a culture other than your own'" is a hypocritical argumentative fallacy that goes against the very spirit of the quoted premise about nuance.

It is particularly disingenuous for a self-professed SJW to grandstand about political correctness running Amok when the supposed gatekeeping arguments were already being countered in the LA Times article itself. The author of the cited article takes care to celebrate the diversity of the backgrounds of the people making tamales throughout history to the present. The article also emphasizes the many additional resources that exist for people to learn even more about tamales and the people who make them, to provide even more thoughtful consideration for the incidents giving rise to the spectre of cultural appropriation.

Nobody is making you read more than you want to, even if all you read is a portion of a sentence and your only takeaway is to excerpt a quote for your own rhetorical grandstanding on Metafilter dot com. However, instead of limiting yourself to establishing narrow premises to refute easily in your own MeFi comment, you could take a moment to thoughtfully consider the opportunities you've been given, in this FPP and other spaces, to learn more about cultures other than your own and develop even more thoughtful consideration.

Rather than fixating on the (very) limiting binary of what people are allowed/not allowed to do, it would only be to your benefit to engage in the simple act of learning when you have this wonderful opportunity to do so. For example, other MeFites have been so kind as to share their own personal experiences in this FPP, living out the spirit of the article's emphasis on cultural appreciation and respect. We're lucky to have this space to enjoy the perspectives our fellow MeFites have taken the time to share with us. Thanks to everyone who's been so generous, truly. It's pretty cool of you. ❤️
posted by rather be jorting at 9:49 PM on December 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


I'm gonna ask that we steer it back toward tamales and Christmas traditions around them.

A good reason to focus on tamales in general and the Christmas traditions associated with them in specific is there are several details specific to tamales that make tamales really NOTHING like previous discussions about who can make and sell certain food items.

Tamales are a yearly seasonal tradition, with demand for tamales at Christmastime far exceeding demand for tamales during the rest of the year. Many people make tamales around Christmastime to account for the seasonal demand.

Tamales were designed to be food that travels well, food that can be eaten long after it's prepared. The design of tamales makes it acceptable to sell tamales in ways that you would not sell other foods- tamales being sold from a cooler in a parking lot is a perfectly acceptable way to buy or sell tamales.

Tamales can be made for pretty cheap. The way you make money selling tamales is you make and sell a shit ton of them.

When the LA times article says:
She recently brought homemade tamales to her office to share with coworkers. One colleague offered to pay to her to make a batch for them; another voiced concern that she would be taking business away from Latino tamale-makers if she did.
they're at least acknowledging the specific details surrounding tamale consumption which make it different from the ways that other food is consumed. Like, if someone brought in homemade sushi to an office, (figuratively) nobody in the office would ask the sushi-maker to cater a party with sushi based on the strength of the sushi, and (figuratively) nobody would have to say "hey, if you do that you'll be taking money away from people who hustle to make a lot of that that food seasonally" because (figuratively) nobody's holiday hustle is selling a shit ton of sushi from a cooler in a parking lot.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:13 AM on December 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


By the way, I was not previously aware of tamales as a Christmas tradition, so I am really glad to see this post and people's comments about their own Christmas tamale stories because I love hearing about stuff like this.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:45 AM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


Man, I reeeeeeeeally want tamales now.

I don’t have any personal Christmas tamal stories but I am a Spanish professor so I’m familiar with the practice. One textbook I used once had a chapter dialogue focused on making tamales; unfortunately the dialogue illustration had abuela, mamá y las hermanas making tamales, while the menfolk watched soccer. I asked the heritage speakers in my class if they had helped make tamales before, and a male student responded that he had, and no way would his abuela have let him get away with watching soccer while everyone else worked. In his words, “Dude, I have hands!”

Yep, that’s it, Mr. Freedom and I are getting Mexican food tonight.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:00 AM on December 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


I missed this essay on tamales that a friend shared on her FB. "Why Chicanos Eat Tamales on Christmas"
posted by jj's.mama at 1:42 AM on December 26


This is a beautiful essay - thank you for sharing. I am not Latina but tamales have been a Christmas tradition in my Texan family for my entire life. I especially love this paragraph, and will enjoy my leftover tamales this week with gratitude for those who have made the tradition possible:
In Texas, even non-Latinos celebrate Christmas with tamales. Zamarripa points out that this cultural exchange is beautiful and reminds all those that partake in the eating of another culture’s food to be aware of the meaning behind the cuisine and to be conscious about what it takes to get that food on the table. Many Latino immigrants work in American fields to grow and pick produce. They work in the kitchens of many American restaurants. They are the hands behind so much of what we eat. “They’re not just providing us with food,” says Zamarripa. They’re providing us with cherished holiday memories. It’s important to remember the people behind the food.”
posted by marshmallow peep at 10:20 AM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


"Does it really need to be said that racist tirades that have nothing to do with the actual content of the links, just perceived slights that aren't part of the discussion, should probably not be posted?"

To add to this; the original purple haired SJW who posted this has not engaged with the responses. More importantly; that comment has been favorited the highest number in this thread (50 at last count). Which tells me that the majority of MeFites who came into this post agree with that sentiment/opinion. That is .... disheartening to say the least.
posted by indianbadger1 at 1:58 PM on December 27, 2019 [20 favorites]


To add to this; the original purple haired SJW who posted this has not engaged with the responses.

It's probably worth mentioning that the account of that particular user is currently disabled.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:41 PM on December 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


Tamal or Tamale?

I think part of the conversation that gets left out of the "correct" singular form of tamales is that the word "tamale" can often be found in the names of long-standing Mexican-American food places, so it's not solely the case of people incorrectly assuming that the singular form should end in an "E", it's that (non-Spanish speaking) people are out there encountering the word "tamale", and if you don't speak Spanish you may have learned the word "tamale" (instead of "tamal") from going to a restaurant with the word "tamale" in the name of the business
posted by 23skidoo at 4:49 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


We have added tamales to our Thanksgiving tradition, not Christmas. My family are all vegetarians, but not me or my in-laws, who generally host. So, they make turkey, we bring Frelard Tamales down to Portland. Tamales are yummy. I will eat them regardless of who made them, as long as they are yummy.
posted by Windopaene at 5:09 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


23skidoo: "because (figuratively) nobody's holiday hustle is selling a shit ton of sushi from a cooler in a parking lot."

You obviously haven't been to downtown Santiago lately. Not that I'd recommend it with the pretty little civil war we've got going.
posted by signal at 6:40 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


Simply dropping in to say that I'm saving all the linked stories to Pocket atm. Thank you for posting!
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Shout - out for Hernandez bros! I live I in the area. Love them! Tamales with turkey in mole were a thing at Christmas in Guanajuato. I still remember those and sometimes have an insane crave for turkey in mole. I have to make it myself. No place makes it. I don’t know how to make tamales. They are real work.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


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