Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ruin and Renewal

The evocative namesake. A corn casket lovingly concealed in husk, shaped and steamed into a perfect provision for the intrepid traveler. Paired with a High Life because, truly, that's what you are experiencing with tamales. Seize them at the Gingerman whenever the nomadic vendor appears - you get six for five dollars. Acquire them from Trader Joe's frozen aisle, selecting the chile and cheese variety with confidence. Get Meador to take to you a fantastical tamale shop in Rogers Park.

How could something formed from corn and lard and draped in its own dead skin be so arrestingly flavorful? Tamalehawk posed this question to the Incan gods. Tamale history is lurid and storied. Shrouded in mystery, it is said that all of South America as we know it sprouted from a drop of tamale blood that splashed to the ground during an ancient harvest incantation. Over the millenia, tamales provided crucial sustenance to warring tribes, causing brothers to kill each other and children to become warriors. In the modern era, we continue to see the tamale at the root of all progress and subversion, rebirth and extinction. Indeed, each time you eat a tamale, you become a part of this mythology, embedded in its history and woven into its future.

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