Friday, December 22, 2006

I'm Here to Make Tamales... Not Friends

Yesterday was the mamacita of all tamaladas, the 3rd annual tamalada at my sister's house in Oakland. We started doing this a couple of years ago when I felt the strong need for a massive masa encounter. My sis has a huge social network comprised of neighborhood dog owners, corporate event planners, Bay Area foodies, family, and the new friends we make who learn that a tamalada is going to happen and "please oh please can I come??!!!"

I missed last year's tamalada. I was too busy having psychotic hallucinations from prednisone but this year I arrived clean and ready.

My role is Masa Maker, the most important job (in my humble opinion). My last tamalada didn't come out as nicely as I'd wanted due to a bucket of sludge we called manteca but you can read about that later. This year we came armed with the good stuff: the large white bucket of highly processed fat. (Everyone check your cholesterol issues at the door before you make tamales!)

My sister Jeanne bought a 25 pound sack of Masa. Think the size of a cement bag, something that can fortify weak levees. Humongous amounts of masa. Buckets of manteca lined the kitchen counter, with chicken broth balancing the act. And yes, we used the Kitchen Aide mixer. (Sorry purists like Marta, but we've got power tools and attitude this year!)

I am happy to say that this year's masa was PHENEOMENAL. It rocked. Light and fluffy, passing the float test each and every time. Flavored with hints of New Mexico chiles, cumin, other batches with roasted garlic, another with cinnamon and brown sugar. Some plain batches, too. Yes, it was a banner year for masa.

My field crew, however, was inconsistent at best. How can my sister assemble such a highly educated group of world travelers, scholars, foodies, professionals... and hardly any of them can roll a decent tamale? Hijole!

I would leave my masa mixing and tamale steaming post from time to time to visit the assembly line at the kitchen table. A lawyer and his wife were patting their masa into the corn husks like it was PlayDo. "Can I offer you a quick tutorial?", I asked.

"No, I have a perfectly fine system worked out here," said Mr. Lawyer.

OK, I'm dealing with a person who argues to be right for a living, I think to myself.

"So how many times have you made tamales?" I asked.

"Well, this is my first time."

"Let me offer you a tutorial," I repeated.

Honestly, I practically had to strongarm the guy to get a tutorial going. I showed him how to put the corn husk in his hand, spread the masa EVENLY with a spoon. Pointed out the sweet spot to put the filling in JUST the right amount. Folded it and finished it with pride.

I picked up the tamale he made. I picked up the tamale I made.

"Any questions?"

"No", replied Mr. Lawyer sheepishly. But I could still see rebellion in his eyes.

My inner Clint Eastwood emerged. Wish I had a smoldering Tiparillo between my teeth and High Plains Drifter playing in the background.

"So you can do it your way and make a mess of things... or you can do it my way. I'll see you at the steamer with some well made tamales, right?"

Mr. Lawyer nods. Yeah buddy, good answer.

Mrs. Lawyer wasn't EVEN going to mess with me after that round. She compliantly listened, an easy and teachable student.

Imagine that scenario repeating itself about 100 times through the night. At one point I pulled my sister aside. "We have serious quality control problems on the floor. Our crew is flabby... their tamales inconsistent."

My sister is a wonderful cook and hostess, but she opted for making sure her guests were happy and having fun. "Just let them do what they want to do."

I clenched my imaginary Tiparillo once again, squinting my eyes in disbelief. "Next year I'm revising our whole training operation. Next year we'll whip these people into shape."

OK, maybe you're thinking I'm taking this tamalada too seriously. Well fast forward to the steamer, 90 minutes later. I'm grabbing broken tamales out of the steamer, the result of poor masa spreading and corn husk folding. Maureen the massage therapist/amazing chef/world traveler comes up and looks in the pot.

I knew she'd understand.

"How is it", she said, "that your sister can have such smart friends but none of them know how to listen?"

"They're over-educated", I surmised as I pulled out tamale pot roadkill- perfectly flavored fillings lost forever.

"I've had to be the heavy all night", I told her. "But dammit, I'm here to make tamales, not friends!"

Maureen nodded in solidarity. We knew what this was all about as the rest of the crowd guzzled margaritas on a Wednesday night like it was a weekend in Cabo.

Next year I'll whip those sorry ass tamale makers into shape and we'll have the tightest tamalada ship around!

But first, I need to relight my Tiparillo.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I should be working right now (ooh, bad choice of words... "should")

Let me rephrase that: I am choosing not to work right now. (ahh, much better. More honesty)

It's sort of a crappy day and I need cheering up, so instead of working on THE NEW BOOK PROJECT I am happily watching videos on my new fave upload network VOY.TV

wanna join me? You can spare 3 minutes right? It's not like we're renting a movie and wasting a whole afternoon. Just a few delicious moments in time..


OK, now this one is total 5th grade humor but it cracked me up!

So go to VOY TV and sign up, it's free and fun and all that. There is another one called Filmmaking 101 that was hysterical... had some profanity so I'm not going to put it up but look for it and watch it. It was pretty darn funny.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nancy Marmolejo on Entrepreneur's Radio Show

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Neil and Barbara Bry's radio show, The Entrepreneur's Guide to the Galaxy. They also go by the name "I'm There For You Baby" and there is this whole "baby" cult around it that I love. Not baby as in "waa-waa", more like Austin Powers baby. You have to listen in to appreciate it! My segment is a few minutes into the show, I gave the story of Comadre Coaching as well as some info on the meteoric rise of Latina business owners. Go Latinas!

Turn up your speakers and enjoy the ride, baby!