The tamales date back to 8000 to 5000 BC Mesoamerica. These were made by the people who believe they are “people of the corn” and to whom the tamales is a sacred food for the gods, prepared and cooked not just for the sake of eating and nourishment, but also for use in rituals and festivals. The tamales has a long history among the Mesoamerican people. In fact, in Petén, Guatemala, there is a pictorial reference that appears to depict the cooking of tamales.
The main characteristic of the tamales that sets it apart from other similar foods is the wrapper. The corn husk (or banana leaf) covers the tamales before it is cooked. The corn masa (dough made from corn) is loaded with fillings like meat or vegetables before everything is wrapped and cooked. The wrapper’s reaction to heat allows it to transfer flavor to the masa and the fillings. This adds a smoky flavor to the food.
Besides that, the wrapper also performs a function role by making the tamales a portable food that is convenient to bring around, and this is important for the people of the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and Toltec civilizations especially when they are hunting or are set to be away from home for long. The wrapper also ensures that the food remains covered while it is not yet being eaten.
- It is not uncommon to find tamales containing frog meat. Aztecs cook tamales this way.
- Mesoamericans believed that if a woman can make tamales, she is worthy of esteem.
- There are 4,000 ways to make tamales.
- Folk belief has it that it is not good to have crying women or children around when cooking tamales.
- The tamales is Christmas food.