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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tamale Season @ La Borinquena

From my review on
All right people, you keep hearing my blah, BLAH, blah about "Tamale Season" and ask me...Tamales have a Season? Well Si, they do! Actually, it's a high season since in this modern day and age you can have tamales 365 days a year (gracias to fridges & freezers) but it wasn't always so. Back en el rancho grande, slaughtering a puerco was a BIG DEAL and was only done for festive occasions such as weddings, baptisms or holidays like Dias de los Muertos, Christmas and New Year's. The corn masa had to be prepared (dried, treated, cooked, stone ground and mixed) along with the meat, sauce, corn husks and then be assembled and steamed. It took many hands and was an honor to have tamales made for you. Fortunately, we have a fine staff of mujeres here ready to do the hard work for you. Nowadays, most Americanos are all hustle and bustle wanting everything five minutes ago! Now I use the term Americanos loosely since there are many American born Latinos (sometimes called the slang term pocho) but Tamale Lovers now come from all kinds of backgrounds. How do I say this so knowingly?

Well, you see my name isn't Tina Tamale for nothing. I always giggle when someone new to me asks why that's my nickname (online and in real life), I sell tamales for a living. I am a third generation member of my family to do so at our restaurant/shop that has been in Old Oakland for the last 63 years*. We sell a TON of tamales this time of year. High Tamale Season kicks off with October 31 (Dias de los Muertos) and ends with December 31 (New Year's Eve). We actually sell one thousand DOZEN ready to eat tamales the week leading up to Christmas alone. Mostly traditional pork* for walk- ins too, some chicken (both made with Mmmm MANTECA) and introduced meatless and vegetarian tamales by special order over the years. I know Grandma Rosa, our founder, would not be happy since she felt it just wasn't right to make a tamale without meat ON PURPOSE unless it was sweet. Really, a dessert tamale with no meat but sugar, cinnamon, crushed pineapple and raisins. We'll be serving sweet tamales and a couple other desserts along with aguas frescas this year at the 3rd Annual Yelp Holiday Party on December 5, 2007.

We also sell supplies if you want to make some tamales yourself including fresh prepared masa that is stone ground in house, dried corn husks and dried chile pods/powder. No time or inclination to cook? We can also provide complete meals with sides like refried beans made with freshly rendered manteca from our chicharrones* (fried pork skins), rice, our famous lardy chips and salsa. We also have lighter and vegetarian options available too. Need food for a group? No problema, just let us know in advance*!

Anyhoo, the cusp of Tamale Season is about to hit so I wanted to take the time to write a FAQ review. I am the official tamale order taker at La Borinquena, will be running my database and sending out confirmation postcards once again. I wrote this awhile back waiting to post it as my 100th review, to give a glimpse of what I do when I'm not Yelping and also to leave as an explanation as to where I went for the month of December. I think it's very sweet when folks look for me somewhat concerned via PM or text message from time to time not knowing when I'm up to my eyeballs with work. I am doing fine, my customers just need my attention for now. I promise to be back in 2008 with more reviews, nerdy history info and new tours of my favorite town, Oakland. If you REALLY miss me, call in to order tamales, the cut off for placing a pre-order is the week before Christmas (Dec 17 this year) or stop by for a meal or just to check us out. Mami and many other members of mi familia like fourth generation Renee E and Sweet Bratty Niece will be en la casa along with Gilberto Y on occasion. You may also catch a fellow Yelper filling in as a Tamale Elf, since Yelpers are some of my most favorite peeps EVER!

Por please take the time to enjoy family and friends during this Holiday Season.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo,
from mi familia to yours...

Abrazos y Besos,

Your Yelp Amiga,

Tina Tamale

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