jueves, diciembre 13, 2007

Memories of la tamaleada

Well, it was a December in the way all Decembers are in Costa Rica, cold, windy and nostalgic. As a kid, Christmas time still held that magic that made everything look fantastic and exciting, thing were far more simple back then of course.
I well remember those years of my childhood, some times this memories mix with dreams that never came to pass to form an idyllic collage of images, of recently cut cypress aroma, of eggnog, of fireworks turning the sky into a starry kaleidoscope, of Christmas carols in the radio every morning, shiny sun and scarlet sunsets with the cool breeze on your face looking at the immensity from atop the highest bench of the bull fight plaza.
Oh happy moments of my sisters and parents gathered around several tables put together and a colorful variety of bowls full of ingredients that filled the room with awe-inspiring smells; some tasty, some spicy, all of them tradition, all just for this time of the year.
My home was a humble one, we had a coal oven were my mother cooked her best recipes. The fire was burning and huge banana tree leaves were clean and half baked ready to envelope the so much awaited tamales.
More people arrived, my grandma and grandpa, more hands were welcome as the task ahead was not easy by any means. The sun was just rising; I could see it through the window greeting all of us with a warm smile on his face.
Hours passed, and between jokes and funny tales the corn was hand grinded, and boiled, and all kind of spices added to it. The glittering squares of cut banana leaves were placed in position, just the right size; the moment of truth was close, I knew it when my mother began placing generous spoons the hot corn an spices mix on the leaves, and on top of it pieces of pork meat, chicken, achiote rice and several vegetables. The package compacted and enveloped on two or three layers of leaves and tied together with cord in couples, the first piña de tamales was done, but at least a hundred more were on the way.
The fatigue was evident, it was past four in the afternoon, but we all kept our good mood, hoping to see soon the reward of our effort. Many piñas de tamales were already being cooked on two huge steel pots, looking at them I got myself distracted for a moment thinking about what presents would I receive that year, was it a toy car, a ball or clothes? Would I be able to sneak under the tree for a quick peek? My childish daydream was interrupted when my sister passed me another couple of tamales for tying them together.
At last, night came, and fresh coffee mugs served. The mess of the tables was cleaned; I was happy and satisfied, and so were all of my family members by the look on their faces. In front of us steamy recently opened tamales were placed and ready to eat. A prayer thanking for family and friends, for health and love and for the chance of repeating the tradition for all the years to come.
The tamales we did dinner that day were delicious.