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A few tips: The key to good tamales is to spread the masa (dough) thinly on the husk.

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In my travels, I have had savory meat tamales wrapped in corn husks spiked with ground chilies, large tamales wrapped in banana leaves, smothered in Oaxacan mole, sweet little dessert tamales with cinnamon and raisins inside, Costa Rican Christmas tamales with green and red bell peppers (void of anything “picante”) to celebrate the season, a Marin County white tablecloth version overlooking the San Francisco Bay, far too many poor renditions at various Mexican-American restaurants, and then there are Grandma’s.

Anything my Grandma’s hands have touched is beyond delicious.

The makings of a tamal reveal its ancient and rustic history.

Maize is cooked in an alkaline solution, typically limewater, to separate the hull from the grain which is then ground and dried to become the meal we know as masa harina.

At 17, while her brothers labored in the fields, Maria cooked for them and the other workers.

In this part of the world, you could bet on a steaming pot of creamy pinto beans that had been cooked all day, potatoes fried with onions, and stacks of soft, warm, handmade tortillas.

This process is called nixtamalization and was developed in Mesoamerica, and used to sustain Aztec and Mayan warriors.

Tamal filling varies widely depending on the region, and the creation comes wrapped in a corn husk or some type of leaf.

” In our family, Grandma’s tamales are like gold, and if you don’t like tamales before you’ve had hers, you will likely convert after you do.

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