The Herald Bulletin

November 9, 2012

Tasty tradition

St. Ambrose Hispanic group shares flavors, culture with tamale sale

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — As Maria Gonzalez spread out corn meal on a corn husk, she chatted with her friends.

The tradition of making tamales is one that is strong in the Hispanic culture — the corn husk wrapped dish is a standard during holy days in the Hispanic culture. It’s a tradition that Angie Pitts, with St. Ambrose Catholic Church’s Hispanic group, wants to be sure they share.

“When we make these tasty tamales we are sharing the flavors of the Hispanic cultures with others in Anderson,” Pitts said, while doing her part in making the tamales.

The group started the tamale fundraiser 12 years ago, selling about 15 dozen tamales with a group of five women working to make them. This year they received 1,500 tamale orders and had a group of about 25 women working over three days. Pitts said the tamales can only be pre-ordered with that deadline passing for this year.

All money raised — a dozen tamales is $12 — goes to the Hispanic group at the church. Pitts said the group does several service projects throughout the year, purchases Bibles and Bible study material as well as helping newcomers to the community connect with resources. The group of 25 to 50 people also has fun activities like a planned trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

The tamales come in a variety of flavors — beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian with an option of mole, verde or red sauce. The women worked throughout the night Thursday and Friday and had plans to return to the church’s basement kitchen at 6 a.m. Saturday to finish things up for pick-ups later that day.

The process of making tamales begins with cleaning and then soaking the corn husks, explained Hortencia Brena. Then a cornmeal dough is spread on the corn husks, then seasoned meat and finally sauce before the corn husk is wrapped. The completed tamale is then boiled for about two hours and can be frozen or reheated.

“We love getting together to do this,” Pitts said. “We reminisce about times from back home, joke around and have a good time all night so we don’t get too tired. We are friends cooking together sharing life experiences.”

There are several different Hispanic cultures that are a part of the process, she said, saying they have women from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Peru and Columbia all as part of the group.

In addition to all the women working, Pitts joked that they have a “Madre” or “mother bull” who is in charge of making sure all of the tamales are up to par. Pitts’ mother Romelia Raudales, 82, tastes each of the ingredients and checks to be sure the tamales are made correctly.

“She’ll say, ‘No, no, no,’” Pitts said with a laugh. “She has authority. What she says goes. She always tells us, ‘They must be better than the ones you make at home.’”

Throughout the years several of the women’s children and other children have participated so they could learn the process.

“This is a tradition we want to pass on to our kids,” Pitts said. “So many of the children have come through this kitchen learning how to make them. It’s important to us.”

But after Sunday, Pitts said she’s OK with not seeing tamales for a while.

“Just to eat, not to make,” she said, laughing.

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.