My Tamale Making Experience
Updated: Jan 11
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Recently I returned from attending my first ever Multiverse Convention in Atlanta, GA. This was an inclusive fantasy convention with gamers, readers, authors, cosplayers, and so many more. Three days of fun and books with exciting panels and events.
While there I bought a small cookbook by author Aimee Andrichak. She did an amazing thing with her kitchen witch magic and served us all some amazing food while attending the convention. One of the recipes I was interested in replicating from the convention was her black bean tamale recipe, but it isn’t in the book I purchased from her. An amazing peach tamale recipe was, however, and I gave it a go. I did make the black bean ones as well but used a different recipe I found on Pinterest.
To begin, for those of you reading who haven’t ever heard of a tamale, I snagged a brief definition for you. Tamale, Spanish tamal, plural tamales, in Mesoamerican cuisine, a small steamed cake of dough made from corn (maize). In the preparation of tamales, masa harina, fine-ground corn treated with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), is made into a thick paste. For each tamale, the masa is spread on a corn husk, a small amount of filling is added, and the whole is wrapped into a package and tied with a strip of husk. The tamales are steamed until cooked through. For all mine, I used my Ninja Foodie to steam them. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/tamale-food)
I grew up eating tamales on a regular basis here in Oklahoma. We always bought them from “the tamale lady,” as my dad called her. I never toyed with the idea of making them on my own until having them at the convention. Andrichak made a huge batch of them for a large number of people, and it inspired me. I also figured, after watching a recent panel about NaNoWriMo 2023 (https://youtu.be/9oaS3LxHXbU), that they would be an excellent thing to meal prep for my writing month. So, I gathered up the necessary items and set to work. My 4 year old son even helped.
Now first I want to talk about the Peach recipe. This recipe fascinated me because I had never had tamales made with fruit. All I had ever tried pre-convention was chicken, beef, or pork tamales. My husband wasn’t sure about this idea and told me he wouldn’t be eating them, but I managed to change his mind.
The masa mixed up for this recipe held together well and was easy to place in the corn husks. When everything was cooked, my prediction was that it would taste similar to peach cobbler, which I think could have been achieve if I had added cinnamon, but it didn’t taste like that. It wasn’t as sweet, and I could taste the corn like taste with each bite. I actually enjoyed that it wasn’t over the top sweet. These tamales also held together better during the cooking process compared to the black bean tamales. I may be adding this recipe to my list of things to make for holiday meals and loved adding the real peaches to the food. Fresh ingredients are a huge game changer and I highly recommend buying local for all your cooking if possible.
The black bean recipe was a bit tougher. I used this recipe. (https://www.thekitchn.com/black-bean-tamales-22958539) This recipe had more flavor than what we had at the convention. I struggled to form the tamales on this one since it was my first go. The filling I made was a little soupier than I think it was supposed to be, but I didn’t want to cook it longer than the suggested time. I did manage to make them despite the soupiness, and they turned out delicious. They leaked like crazy in my Ninja Foodie and looked a hot mess but, this is a recipe I will absolutely be making regularly.
Now you may wonder why I went with these instead of doing a meat recipe, well turns out it takes longer to make those. I researched the pork tamale, which is the one my family and I agree that we prefer over chicken or beef, and to make it from scratch you have to cook the pork meat on low in a slow cooker for eight hours before starting the tamale making process. Now this isn’t to say I won’t be making it in the future, because I will, I love trying new recipes, but I’m working my way up to it. Until then I’ll stick with purchasing them from the “tamale lady.”
My favorite part about making the tamales was the final product. I enjoyed eating them. Both turned out amazing but not pretty to look at. Obviously, I’m not a fancy chef but an author as you see but I do enjoy good food. My kitchen was a bit of a disaster after making them all in one go. I had bowls, cups, and spoons everywhere. My husband was afraid to step into the kitchen during that time. I did get it all cleaned up in the end.
If you have any tamale recipes that you’ve made or tried let me know. Just drop me a comment, link, or a recipe. I’m always looking for new things to cook.
The Kitchen Withc Grimoire:
Between the time I began writing this cookbook, and when I finally finished it, we were set upon by a world-wide pandemic. People were sheltering in place. Jobs disappeared, families began to struggle, and food became more than just a way to bring people together. Many families faced food insecurity for the first time.
As a Kitchen Witch whose family was not put in a great hardship by the pandemic, I felt a deep need to take up my cauldron and start making some magic.
I started the Kitchen Witch Food Train. My goal at first was to make 100 weekly boxes of food for families in need. Each box would have at least one meal per day for the family. I blew past that goal very quickly, and eventually stopped keeping track.
Protests rocked our nation, and I found myself dropping food off to community organizers. Non-profit shelters needed help supporting their residents. Families continued to need support.
And I, in my one tiny corner of the world, made the casserole an act of love. I put on my mask and haunted the discount grocery store for dry goods. I bought the ugly vegetables from the farmers’ markets. My friends chipped in with donations of storage containers, gas cards, and grocery money. One dear friend started making baked goods for my food boxes. And, together, we have been able to create hundreds of boxes of food. Without my Village of like-minded do-gooders, this would never have been possible. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.
And that, my dear friends, is Kitchen Witch Magic. Food and love and community come together to make the world a better place. Wherever you are, I hope that this troubled time brings you a chance to connect with your own magic. I hope that you are touched by love and wonder, even when things look dark.
Until the day we can all sit down across from the table with the people we love, and break bread together, I remain,
With great love (and a belly full of magic),
Aimee Andrichak AKA The Kitchen Witch
Aimee Andrichak, AKA The Kitchen Witch, lives in Georgia with her husband, and spends most of her time in her big farmhouse-style kitchen, cooking for their 8 children. She spends her free time feeding folx at conventions, creating art, teaching, and writing.