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La Tamalada at the Witte Museum

Dr. Clark, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas
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Dr. Ellen Clark, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio’s Witte Museum held a Christmas-themed Super Saturday event, La Tamalada. This workshop on the traditional Mexican tamale-making party was led by Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark, Ph. D. a retired professor and coauthor of “Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization.”

It is a way to share family stories, mark the beginning of the holidays, and pass along culture to the next generation through stories and food.

Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas
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Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas

Ashe shared her own family anecdotes, Dr. Clark, who has been making tamales for over 50 years. told us that the learned the art from her aunt, Tia Hope,who wore high heels to age 93.

There were specific prerequisites for her family ritual. The women dressed up, donned earrings, preferably dangly ones, and wore lipstick. They met at one house, brought aprons, tequila and their best gossip, and asked the men and boys to leave.

Dr. Ellen Clark, La Tamalada, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas
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Dr. Ellen Clark, La Tamalada, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

It’s the process, she stressed several times, not the product, as we mixed the masa and water with our hands.

As we added prepackaged lard, Dr. Clark noted that the best tamales are made from the fresh 100% fat pure lard available at the Mexican Market.

Dr. Ellen Clark, La Tamalada at the Wtte Museum, San Antonio, Texas
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Dr. Ellen Clark, La Tamalada at the Wtte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

We learned the right way to wrap the tamale in a corn husk and cooked them in a large pot of boiling water. Then it was time to sample what we had made and to share gossip.

corn husks, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas
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corn husks, La Tamalada, San Antonio, Texas

It is just not Christmas without a couple of dozen tamales in the freezer, Dr. Clark noted.

While my tamale was far from the best I have tasted, it truly is the process, not the product, after all.

 

 

 

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