Las Abuelas is my first writing project, that emerged from the kitchen and heart. it shares the stories of my childhood life and follows the women of my family and their kitchens where all the magic happens. (write about what your book is, why you wrote it, and why readers might be interested)
Christmas in Seattle is a quiet holiday, just us four. Pajamas and books on Christmas Eve presents and pancakes on Christmas morning. Tamale making is scheduled with neighbors and friends on a day between Christmas and New Year’s.
I order the masa by phone and drive down to Burien to pick it up,15 miles south on I5. You can choose between corn or masa harina, but it all is preparada. When I get the masa home, I divide out a bit and set it aside for the sweet tamales. Then I follow Abuelita’s instructions, adding chili broth, shortening and a pinch of salt. I knead the masa till it fluffs up and floats off the bottom of a water glass.
The neighbors arrive bearing pre-made fillings: green verde chili with chicken, roasted serrano chilis, and ranchero cheese. I cook the red chili sauce with pork, mimicking the steps Grandma Mary taught me as a girl. I put on my red apron and pass out extras to the neighbors. I pause and remember childhood family gatherings with all my aunts and cousins gathered around the long table. The bright chatter brings me back, I look lovingly at my neighbors and friends, they are my extended family here.
My daughter Riley is happy to help mix the masa, her hands so much like my own. My girls love to help assemble the tamales. Riley takes charge of making the sweet tamales, adding in raisins, pineapple, and even chocolate chips, which her younger sister Mac playfully steals and eats handfuls of.
We gossip about kids, jobs, and other neighborhood news as we spread the masa.
“I heard that Sanchez is looking to sell his house and move south.” Melinda shares. The group collectively gasps, “Oh no! But we love the potluck dishes he shares at our monthly dinners,” Mac exclaims.
Melinda spouts her familiar refrain, “No one else is allowed to leave the 24!”
I laugh, “We aren’t moving, I’m finally getting my kitchen remodeled after twenty years!”
Within a couple of hours, all the masa is spread, and the steaming pots are full. Each person takes a couple back to their own home for the two to three-hour cook time. We will meet back here later to taste and divide up the cooked tamales. After clean-up, the girls and I collapse onto the nearest sofa. In soft exhaustion, we cuddle and read our Christmas books, while the sweet smell of tamales tantalizes us.
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