There are many things I want to know about Elizabeth, the woman who rolled a cooler up to my front door to sell tamales. How she got in the cooler-based tamale business, naturally. Also, who else buys her tamales? Does she know other women selling tamales from an ice chest? Does her business skyrocket around Christmas?
Unfortunately, my Spanish is not as good as her tamales—flavorful masa with strips of meat flavored with salsa roja, wrapped in corn husks and served in foil.
A co-worker helped translate. She's been making tamales since July 2010, cooking in a kitchen somewhere along Killingsworth Street and selling them around Southeast Division. She's originally from Mexico City. She started selling when she couldn't find other work. She says gabachos like me buy them, "Because they are very hungry and they don't like to cook." My curiosity was not sated as well as my appetite.
Tamales are arguably the Western Hemisphere's most traditional dish, eaten everywhere in Mesoamerica before and after the gringos came. They're a hassle to make, which is why families prepare them in one big batch for special occasions. Elizabeth, apparently, makes them every morning. Her tamales are not fancy, artisan-style pockets of Dungeness crab and apricots. Not that there's anything wrong with exotic fillings—Aztecs sometimes put tadpoles or bees in theirs, after all—but there's certainly something to be said for the simplicity of slightly sweet cornmeal, meat and chilies. Especially when delivered to your door.
How can you try Elizabeth's tamales? Well, she gamely suggested we publish her telephone number, but we'll pass it along via email. Se necesita hablar un poco de Español.
- Order this: Tamales de carne (12 for $10)
EAT: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Elizabeth" in the subject line and we'll reply with her phone number.