Go World Travel Magazine

‘Tis The Season For Tamales
By Sherry Spitsnaugle

Marilau Ricaud greets my adult niece Kelly and me and invites us into her kitchen, just off a cobblestoned street in a sleepy neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We have signed up for a three-hour class with Marilau’s Mexican Ancestry Cooking School to learn how to make tamales. We’re also eager to know more about Mexican traditions and why these wrapped creations of wonder are such an important part of the culture, especially around the holidays.

A Day Without Chile
Copper pots, strings of chiles, and ceramic bowls claim every inch of wall space, from counter surface to ceiling, and the essence of fresh produce saturates the air. A plaque near the stove reads, “Un dia sin chile es como un dia sin sol.” A day without chile is like a day without sun.

Familiar aromas and the tidy workspace take me back to the kitchen of my childhood home in a small western Kansas town. Here, my mom spent much of her day baking, frying, and canning. Even though there are differences between our two cultures, many things—family, cooking, home—are the same.

Marilau gestures to a pitcher and two ceramic brown cups and says to help ourselves to agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea) which tastes fruity with a kiss of cinnamon. She brushes away a strand of short salt-and-pepper hair with the back of her hand, gives a quick tug to straighten her apron, and in perfect English, announces, “Okay, let’s get started…”


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