Cooking in the Campo: Tamales

/Cooking in the Campo: Tamales
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Tamales Galore

 

Venture out to Yatareni with Tlayudona and Doña Juana for a taste of life in the campo.  Juana and her family dedicate themselves to cultivating a mixture of corns, beans, and squash, known locally as “la milpa”.  Their property is close enough to Oaxaca´s city center to make it an easy venture, although you´ll enjoy a whole different scene than you´ll experience in the city´s colonial streets.  On their property, there´s an abundance of air, fruit-bearing trees, a few dogs, a whole lot of chickens, and a rowdy turkey who likes to make his presence known.

 

It took us a whole experience in itself to taste all of the tamales and decide which we´d prepare during this experience.  Out of the various recipes that Doña Juana prepares often for her family, we narrowed down our first experience to four: the quintessential black bean tamal, the “chepil” tamal (a locally-grown herb with a distinct flavor quite typical in certain Oaxacan cuisine), the chicken tamal, cooked with strips of just-the-right-amount-of-spice pepper strips, and the pumpkin flower and “quesillo” (Oaxacan string cheese) tamal.  While the “mole” (unique Oaxacan sauces made with a smorgasbord of ingredientes) tamales were absolutely delicious, we ultimately decided that they were time consuming beyond what we could expect of our guests in an introductory experience, although Doña Juana is ready to delve into those more advanced recipes if you are particularly interested.

You´ll take a tour of their property and get to meet the animals, and then you´ll get to work preparing your tamales.  Juana has already done us the favor of heading to the mill to have the corn ground so that this experience can be nestled into a single day.  She´ll go through the preparation process with you, step-by-step, and you´ll get to practice making each of the four types of tamales.

We´ll break about an hour and a half into the experience for an “agua de sabor” or a well-known local fruit-drink made with fruit picked from Juana´s property, and some cookies.  That´ll refuel us enough to continue on our tamal-making journey and get us to the point where they boil to perfection over an open-stove while we feast on some extra tamales that Juana has prepared specially for us.  She´ll also have some homemade sauces to bathe them in, depending on your tolerance for spice! Your handmade tamales will be ready by the time that lunch is over, so that you can bag them up and take them with you, although they are one souvenir that most likely won´t even make it home.

What’s unique about this experience is how you´ll immerse yourselves in the cradle-to-grave nature of food cultivation and preparation for Doña Juana´s family. You´ll learn about the importance of the milpa, of seed collection and the assets of local varieties of corn, beans, and squash.  You´ll get to spend a good portion of the day as part of the life of a local family whose dedication to their land feeds their four growing children and a constant flow of visiting family and friends, all of whom leave with their bellies full.

The food is so amazing that you’ll want to continue eating long after you feel full.  We could not stop licking our fingers after we finished our lunch, and even in the throes of our stuffed-contentment, we were already looking forward to the extra bag of tamales that Doña Juana packed us to take home.

This experience includes:

  • A tour of Doña Juana´s property, during which her husband will explain the importance of the “milpa” (corn/beans/squash planting) and show the stages of the milpa´s growth, depending on the season.
  • Personalized instruction regarding how to make four locally-renowned types of tamales.
  • A break for cookies and fresh “agua de sabor”.
  • The opportunity to cook your tamales over an open stove in great company.
  • A delicious lunch that will leave you licking your fingers.
  • A chance to escape the urbanity of Oaxaca and experience village life.
  • Four (one of each flavor) of your handmade tamales to take home.
  • The opportunity to buy extra tamales (if you´re a local, you know they freeze well).

This experience is hosted in Spanish and can be translated into English.

It is hosted from approximately 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which includes a snack break and a full lunch. Duration: 4-5 hours in total. (Keep in mind that Oaxacan time is different than the way we conceive of time in some other parts of the world.)

You can add transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle to and from your experience for 400 MXN (four hundred Mexican pesos) for 2-4 people.

Children are welcome to participate in this experience, although they are the responsibility of their accompanying adults. This experience involves cooking over and open flame, although the cooking area is secluded from the tamal-preparation and dining area. This host family has four children for your children to play with (so guests who do not appreciate children are encouraged to reserve an alternate experience).

Bathroom facilities are available, though rustic (outhouse style). If you´re picky in that respect, we suggest you go beforehand or check out one of our more centrally-located experiences in Oaxaca City.

 

Cost: 980 MXN (Mexican Pesos) per person.
Children under 5 are invited to attend for free.
Cost for children aged 5-12 years: 500 MXN per child.
Reserve two spots for a discounted rate of 925 MXN per person
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