The Evolution of the Tamale
Today we share this story in celebration of National Salsa Month.
The diary of fourteen year old Mariana Calderón y Oliveira provides important insights about cooking and eating in sixteenth century Mexico City. Elite Mexico City families like Mariana’s generally used Indian, Spanish commoners, and casta (people of mixed heritage) wage laborers to perform domestic chores like cooking. In the 1690s, Mexico City cooks prepared various types of corn tamales. At first Indians loathed the pork fat that Iberians enjoyed so much; later they incorporated them into their cuisine when they learned that using them in tamale batter improved the tamale’s texture. Typically they served these tamales with chilly salsa too hot for the average new comer from Spain. But the children of the first Iberian settlers such as Mariana grew accustomed to eating foods like tamales served with spicy hot salsa. As I mentioned yesterday, spicy hot is in today.