When I went to Mexico to visit my in-laws for the first time in 2008, I went with my mind wide open to the sights, sounds and flavors of the country. I was intrigued by all the colors and impressions of Mexico as we drove from the airport and wanted to explore all of it. The first thing I did on my journey was to sample the food - of course! I arrived at my in-laws house and was immediately asked if I knew how to make tortillas hecho amano (by hand). That was the beginning of my love affair with true Mexican cuisine. The next morning I was woken up by the rooster and immediately put to work soaking & sorting corn husks to start the process of making tamales. These tamales were to be served for lunch to the men of the house. My mother-in-law had already picked, dried and prepared the corn, started the salsas and had the pork boiling on the stove by the time I woke. I watched in awe as she ground the corn by hand then mixed the ingredients to make the masa, pulled the scorching hot pork into perfect strings and toasted the chiles for the salsa.
As she was doing all of this she looked over to me and said “Pon tu corazón en la comida para demostrarles cuánto los amamos.”(Put your heart into the food to show them how much we love them). Then she handed me a spoon and a huge pot of masa and told me to get to work. I thought I knew how to make tamales, boy was I wrong! The first few were sloppy & messy, I couldn’t figure out how to roll them so they dripped everywhere. My mother-in-law came and sat next to me and with pure patience, showed me how to roll a beautiful tamal. She sat by my side filling and rolling tamales letting her hands do the magic of generations before her. When they were done, she offered me one right from the pot, which I ate with relish. The flavors. The textures. All exploding in my mouth. I had just experienced the magic.
I told her she had magic hands to create such wonder and her tamales were the best I have ever had. I asked if I could have her recipe so I could try making them when I got home. She told me her family has passed this down to their daughters for more than 5 generations, and wrote down for me to have.
Since that trip, I’ve been refining what was on that paper to make them taste like the ones we made together. I have practiced for years to recreate the flavors I remember. The tamales we make at Mis Dos Magos today are just like those that I fell in love with in Mexico. Every batch we make are filled with generations of love and a little bit of magic, wrapped in a husk!