Food Ways: Colombian Tamales


California State University Fullerton


Colorist for Cartoon Network’s Regular Show

English, Spanish

20 April 2011

Food ways- Colombian Tamales

“So something that my family does every year is that for Christmas we make tamales. It’s a pretty involved process that takes a couple days if done correctly. A couple days before Christmas, my mother and grandmother go out shopping for the ingredients. When everything is gathered together, all the ingredients are placed at stations around the kitchen. Then, my mom, grandmother, my aunts and myself all stand at a station. Basically, we make an assembly line. One person chops, another puts the maize in the leaf, another puts in the garlic, etc. It takes almost a day because we usually make around 50.  While were working, we listen to Colombian and Spanish music. We principally speak Spanish while were working, and we catch up on news in the family and such. Its something I look forward to every year.” AT explains that the tamales they are making are specifically from Colombian. She explains that Colombian tamales are made with finer maize, almost like a paste, and wrapped in banana leaves. Banana leaves are key, as most other tamales are made from being wrapped in cornhusks. She  explains that Colombian Tamales are better because, they have “more than just boring meat in them.” She states that the whole process is an important step in performing her Colombian tradition. She mentions this is especially important for her family, because her generation is the first generation born in America.

The process for making tamales is an important act of acting out a part of her heritage. It is saved for a special occasion, when a large portion of her family will be there. It’s a tradition that has gone on in her family since before she was born. The food itself is important, as it separates herself from other Hispanic heritages. The ingredients are bought from a Colombian store, which her grandmother verified before purchasing the ingredients. While the food is important, the process and annual performance of it are what makes this truly Folk food ways. Though the tamales are made in a specific way, no written recipe exists. Its memorized and passed down through the action of making them and verbal directions. The process of making the tamales, also serves as a connection between 3 generations of her family. No males are present for two reasons, one is that there are no males on her Colombian side except for a cousin and her brother. The second reason was they were both banished from the process is because they had a tendency to eat all the ingredients while they were being made.