If you’ve been following our blog, you read recently about Artemisa, a woman who comes around in her car 4-5 days each week to our house, selling burritos, tamales, empanadas, chiles rellenos or gorditos – delicious Mexican food, hot out of her oven. Bob developed a particular fondness for Artemisa’s tamales, so suggested Cathryn should learn how to make them. Sure enough, Cathryn was intrigued by the idea, so asked Artemisa if she’d be willing to teach her. Artemisa provided a grocery list of ingredients (some of which were complete mysteries to us), and we bought them yesterday with the assistance of a couple employees at the local grocery.
Today was Tamale Lesson Day. Artemisa arrived at 3:00 on foot, as her car broke down yesterday, unbeknownst to us. She walked the 3 kilometers to get here! Artemisa proceeded to demonstrate the entire process of making tamales, and when our kitchen failed to produce all the necessary kitchen-ware (no blender!) we sent Bob next door to Russett’s house to borrow hers. Right in the middle of making tamales, two gringos showed up unexpectedly to look at our house, which is currently for sale. We apologized for the condition of the house, both the kitchen which was undergoing tamale making, as well as the rest of the house which is undergoing sorting and packing for our planned departure on Wednesday. Artemisa and Cathryn communicated using Cathryn’s less-than-fully-adequate Spanish, with her referring to the fabulous Spanish-English dictionary Ryan gave her two Christmases ago as needed. It took 2 ½ hours to make the tamales (22 in the end), but Bob was thrilled as they were more delicious than the ones we normally buy from Artemisa, as they were more generously filled with chicken and vegetables. Artemisa explained the difference between “casa tamales” (those made for eating at home) and those that are made for sale, the former of which are more “gordo” (fat) with meat and veggies. On a normal day, Artemisa, with some help from her 12 and 14-year-old daughters, makes 240 tamales to sell out of her car, driving house-to-house and blowing her car horn to let clients know she’s arrived. Cathryn thought the process and afternoon were great fun and looks forward to searching for the proper ingredients back home so she can try making tamales on her own.
After cleaning up and eating a few tamales, Cathryn drove Artemisa back to her home. On the way, Artemisa paid us an enormous compliment/honor by inviting us to attend her daughter’s Quinceanera next December if we’re back in Baja. This is a coming-of-age ceremony that is common in Mexican culture, very formal and not unlike a wedding in terms of importance, formality and expense. Cathryn felt a bit teary over the honor of the invitation and wishes she thought it were likely we could attend – which we don’t. Unfortunately we’re unlikely to keep in touch with Artemisa as she doesn’t have email, and other methods are unlikely to be used. Our current thinking is we’ll go to mainland Mexico next winter instead of Baja, but as always, “Vamos a Ver” (or “we’ll see!”)