During the third week of Advent the rose/pink candle is lit. This symbolizes the Shepherd’s candle. This candle reminds us of the Joy we will experience with the birth of our Savior Jesus. It is also the week of the big Tamale Contest.
Our family worked hard at getting my Mom’s recipe together. Though we had a mishap with the first batch, Mike decided that we needed to make another three dozen tamales with different masa. We steamed a dozen of the new tamales, and when they were ready, we were both pleasantly surprised with the outcome, as they were winners. I marked the bag, with “contest winners,” and threw them into the freezer until the day of the party.
On the day of the big event, I steamed the tamales about an hour before the judging and felt confident that I was going to win. Joanna, our cleaning lady, was helping me with the party. Joanna said that Carlos and Gloria, a couple that she also works for, were entering the competition. Joanna said that she tasted their tamales and that they were delicious. When Carlos and Gloria arrived, Joanna called me into the kitchen to taste their tamales. The tamales were beautiful to look at, and they easily fell off the corn husk, but when I tasted them, my taste buds took a small step into heaven. Joanna was right; everything about Carlos and Gloria’s tamales indicated victory. I asked Joanna to sample my tamales. “There is something missing,” she said. Our conversation was in Spanish, and I quickly responded, “Qué dijiste? (What did you say?)” Joanna, said that my tamales needed more salt. I thought, how insensitive of her to insult my masterpiece, my mother’s recipe. I told her, “Just because you’re from Mexico does not make you an expert in tamales. We will soon find out whose tamales need more salt.” We both laughed at my sarcastic remark, but I was a little nervous.
I picked six judges, and went over the rules, which included: No talking, no looking at each other’s scores, no emotions or rolling of the eyes, etc. Around the dining table the tamales made their way to the judges. It was so intense that even Helen, the reigning Tamale Queen, looked worried at Carlos and Gloria’s tamales. Helen learned that Carlos made the chile, and she knows that he is a great cook.
Since I host the party, I also oversee the judging and always know which tamales are mine. I can also observe the scoring and the painful outcome, when I know it’s not in my favor. When Carlos and Gloria’s tamales were being scored, some of the judges were taking a long time in deciding. I knew the reason why; they too opened that same small door to heaven and wanted to stay a little longer. Sarah’s tamales, which I did not get to taste, came in with a big score too. I never say who came in second or who placed last because I don’t want to discourage contestants or hurt anyone’s feelings.
Our faithful guests patiently waited as David and Marianela tallied the scores. From the kitchen I carried the coveted trophy to make the announcement of the the 2018 Best Tamale in the World. I could sense that Helen was a bit apprehensive, thinking that she may have lost to the heavenly tamales. I looked around the room and locked eyes with Helen as I announced her as the winner. It was no surprise to most of us because this is the eighth time she has stolen the trophy out of my hands. Next year will be my year!
The party switches to the Merry Christmas Game. Mikos complained that the questions were too challenging, and that I was losing the crowd. It didn’t matter because, just like Helen, Mikos’ team won again.
As we do every year, we hired a caterer, “Taco Guy.” It’s like street tacos in your back yard. I thought for sure that we would run out of food, but God miraculously multipled the dinner, because I ordered food for 45 but fed more than 75 guests. When the caterer ran out of flour tortillas, our daughter Sonja supplied him with more; we always have tortillas.
Karaoke was next and then it turned into a dance party, a really long dance party. I was wondering why my legs were so sore and I remembered that as the hostess, I am required to sing and dance. From hostess, I switched hats and became an Uber driver, and by the time I laid my head on my pillow, it was 2:30 AM.
The following morning I felt like I got hit by a fast moving train, I never drink and host, so my exhaustion came from all the work I put into the party. Both Mike and I worked for hours to get the party set up, and then to cleaning up the following day. I thank God that we had help with Mikos and Russ moving the heavy stuff, and getting the house back to normal.
My ever-aching toe swelled to three times its normal size, and pained my every dance move. I was having too much fun to to complain. I postponed and saved all the complaining for Mike the following day. It was not until three in the afternoon that I decided to ran a comb through my matted hair.
My day was all but over at 6:30 PM, when I remembered that I had not attended Mass. Our parish has a Spanish service, so at 7:00 PM I attended the Mass. It was a beautiful celebration and I loved the singing of praise music in Spanish.
Thank you, Lord, for always being in our midst and allowing our family to celebrate together. Thank you for our friends and the way they welcome Your love and presence in our home. We wait in anticipation for the celebration of your birth. Merry Christmas!