Jemelene Wilson

Follow Me

Back to: News
December 20, 2013
Follow News

Jemelene Wilson: Tamales are more than food | Moms

The holidays are full of beauty steeped in traditions both from family and society from the type of tree to grandma's throw to the quilted tree skirt.

Our holidays have the must-haves that have been in place since the beginning, others have joined us over the years.

Several years ago my friend Victoria and I began making tamales together. We usually met in mid November. We would take an entire Saturday, cook the meat, mix a spicy corn masa (Spanish for dough) then roll the husks around the delicious meat and masa.

They were authentic: a recipe passed down from her mother and a tradition from her childhood.

We would have some that night and freeze the rest. We liked having them handy for those nights we wanted something special, but could make in a hurry.

What I love about tamales is the process. Tamales are not just cooked – they are assembled. It's communal.

My brother's family visited Roseburg a few years ago and I passed on my lessons to his family. We gathered around the kitchen table, comparing techniques, critiquing style and hiding the olives in each roll.

That's what I love most about food is how it is meant to be shared from preparation to the smell to the taste to the feel in your belly.

Traditions are meant for community too. They are best shared and even better evolved to meet needs of those we love.

Last year we changed our Christmas meal from traditional fare to Mole Chicken with a side of store bought tamales. We were hooked.

We liked the casual yet festive feel. The chicken was plated on a brightly patterned platter in place of the formal dishes we've used in the past. The citrus dishes on deep red chargers added pops of color across the rest of the table.

We all came away with the same conclusion that this would be a tradition to keep.

Shortly before Thanksgiving this year, I took an unexpected trip to see my dad. With my niece home on a college break, I coerced her to join my brother and I around the table of masa, husks, pork and chicken fillings.

We made cornhusk ties and filled each one until we were out of meat. Laughter was our language that day.

We reached across the table to lend a hand with overstuffed husks or handing out extra ties. Connection was the result.

Coming together around food feeds more than bodies. It feeds our souls.

A lesson from my house to yours: This year do something fun, do something different and dare to make a mess. Whatever you do, don't be afraid to add spice!


Tamales are not just cooked – they are assembled.

Stories you may be interested in

The News-Review Updated Dec 23, 2013 10:45PM Published Dec 30, 2013 07:52AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.