All Wrapped Up: A Quick History of the Tamale!

The holidays will bring friends and family together with plenty of happiness, presents and, of course, delicious food. With a range of homemade food, to ordering delicious authentic dishes, there is one distinct and popular item that always has friends and family running straight to the dinning table.

Undeniably one of the tastiest foods ever created, tamales have been wrapping up deliciousness for countless generations. Since as early as 7,000 B.C. in Pre-Columbian history, tamales have maintained and created new traditions for the world to enjoy.

Taste the authentic flavors of a rich history in each tamale by visiting one of our locations in the Rio Grande Valley or order online today!


Behind the Tamale

Derived from the Aztec word “tamalii”, meaning “wrapped food,” the very first tamale to ever be created is still widely debated. What is said is that the first tamales were a result of warriors needing more portable, yet, sustainable food to be carried like a meal on the go. Tamales would be made ahead of time, packed and then warmed as needed or even eaten cold.

Originally, tamales were cooked by being buried in hot ashes, making them crispy and brown. As time progressed, steaming tamales in underground pits or uncovered pots became the norm, and this dish was adopted by the Mayans and was even introduced to the Spaniards.

The tamale changed in size, color and filling depending on the location and resources. Wrappings varied from cornhusks, to soft tree bark, to avocado and banana leaves. Popular fillings among the Aztecs were turkey, frog, flamingo, rabbit, honey or beans. Mayans often had tamale fillings of squash, iguana, deer, bean and fish.

Mayans would also create designs on the tamales and use the heart of a deer for special occasions, such as big feasts or festivals. As time progressed, so did the tamale recipe, eventually evolving into the varieties we all enjoy today.

Keeping Up Traditions

As time progressed, the Hispanic community embraced the tamale, creating new traditions in the process. Since making tamales was time-consuming and labor-intensive, women would gather family and friends and hold a “tamalada,” or tamale-cooking session. These family functions would give everyone involved a chance to socialize.

These gatherings would be held annually and recipes were passed down from generation to generation. The process of making tamales had become just as important as enjoying them for a feast.

Today, the value of the tamale has extended beyond the Hispanic community and is enjoyed by people all over the world. From making the masa, spreading it on the comal, inserting your choice of filling and then steaming it, tamales can now be enjoyed by many thanks to Delia’s.

Taste the Family Tradition

Delia’s has perfected the flavors and styles of 18 different tamales over a 30-year period. With so many varieties to satisfy any taste bud, you can have your authentic tamale delivered straight to you! Now you and your family can create new memories with your favorite tamale from Delia’s!

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