Drug deal tamales…

First, let me refer you to LawDog’s post from last year- HERE.

Being an old fart, I will tell you this is NOT a new thing…

My father was in the oil business starting back in the 1920s, and he moved over to the pipeline side sometime later. He was the district manager for the state of Louisiana when I was little, and we always had tamales available, due to his contacts with the crews and family up around Many and Zwolle, LA. He had worked there in the early 20s when a field was brought in down there, and the Hispanics on the crew were always bringing tamales for lunch.

As far as DDTs, I know it’s been going on at least since the 70s. Those who know about tamales and grew up being able to get them, WILL go on the hunt around the holidays wherever they may be. I’ve found them in California, Florida (although one round of those were ‘sweet’ tamales wrapped in banana leaves), and of course Texas. NEVER found any in NOVA, either due to conspiracy in the community to keep them away from us, or my being in the wrong places at the wrong time(s). Oh,  and none in Hawaii either… Portagee sausage and Spam musubi everywhere, tamales not so much.

Probably the ‘strangest’ place I ever found tamales (GOOD ones!), was in Pataya Beach, Thailand! A lady there ran a mexican restaurant (her hubby was USAID in ‘Nam) and she had stuff shipped in from Mexico and Arizona.

As LawDog said, it’s always the old car or pickup, driven in most cases by an older Hispanic man or an Abuela. They usually are in the corner of a parking lot, or an old shut down gas station, or a country crossroads, especially around the holidays. OR, you find a Hispanic co-worker and beg them for tamales (that ‘sometimes’ works)…

It used to be $5/dozen, and you always got at least two dozen, one pork (usually spicy) and one chicken (usually milder). Now days, it’s up to $20/dozen, but I still consider that a bargain!

In this year’s search, LawDog was actually able to get some ‘white boy mild’ tamales! They were ‘good’, but over the years, I’ve kinda gotten attached to the ‘spicy’ versions. 🙂

And yes, they are all gone! Sigh…

Although there are apparently now tamale shops in various cities, where you can get tamales year round. Strange, that…


Drug deal tamales… — 43 Comments

  1. Tamale shops make sense. It’s too much work for one family dinner. If you get help and an assembly line going, it wouldn’t be bad.

  2. I really should make tamales at least once, just to get a feel for them. I have a feeling it’s like mole – I spent three days making that sauce! Never again! LOL

    I absolutely loved the DDEmpanadas that showed up at the apartment complex, but was too busy this holiday season traveling to track down DDT. Next year.

    • I’ve never made them either. Maybe the next time I’m in the US, we can do a tamale day. Many hands, light work, etc.

    • It’s not ALL that difficult, it’s that the materials are only sold in industrial quantities. MAYBE find a small (5#) bag of masa instead of 20#, lard in a can and not a gallon bucket, corn husks … 100ct IS the small bag. Lots of my neighbors have banana trees, so I tend to go estilo Yucatan.

      • I already have both the masa and the lard – making my own tortillas when I have time, and lard pie crusts. Looking for corn husks prepared here in TX should be possible. I’ll try the supermercado first.

  3. Down in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley Texas), Delia’s makes a mint selling Tamales. They do ship I think – the nearest to you might be in San Antonio last time I checked. Very good products, but bring Mastercard, they aren’t inexpensive.

    My maternal Grandmother’s family made an annual production weekend of it. She and her daughters would get together at Grandmas and make tamales for the entire family, often 200 dozen being the target (10 kids). They would make them with various fillings and cluck with the latest gossip – fact finding. When filling ran out, they would often mix the masa with refried beans and finish it that way.

    Awesome time to be alive – no one in our family still makes them as the amount of work is crazy if doing all by scratch. Buying masa and making a couple of dozen isn’t too hard, but prep time is required. Wife made a couple of dozen years ago, cream cheese and jalepeno. Soooo good !

  4. I’m not sure where my Dad (who was a Battleship sailor) picked up the habit; but we are ours with pork and beans. He, and I could make a meal of them.

  5. 40+ years ago when I was still married to wife #1 who was hispanic Tamales were a Christmas tradition. Her mother would break out the big old steam pot, buy tons of Masa and corn husks and there would be an entire day of tamale making to last through the holidays. I got over the wife going Loca but I still miss those tamales.

  6. My German Great-Grandma in New Braunfels, TX. made the best damned tamales I ever ate.
    I remember waking up early when we visited and she was already in the kitchen, cooking pork & beef & mixing the meat juice into the Masa.
    I helped roll up the husks.
    One of my best childhood memories.

  7. But have you ever had Zwolle tamales at their festival?


  8. There’s a tamale trail that goes from Florida to Memphis. Started with the migrant workers way back when. I’ve had actual Mexican tamales, and these southern ones are more of a chili flavor than a tamale flavor. When I was stationed in Mississippi tamales would become our go-to take out food. Vicksburg has at least three tamale shops, maybe more. The first time I was told that I had to try the tamales in Vicksburg I thought people were nuts, but they’re actually pretty damn good.

  9. I was in Del Rio a few years back on a quick “there and back” work assignment. As I was filling up the tank at the gas station, an older lady is walking around talking to everyone. I bought 2 dozen for about 20 bucks. This old guy next to me asks, “hey man! How much did you pay?” I told him, and he yelled out, “I only paid 10 for 2 dozen!!!! ¡¡Pinche el guero!!” I about choked laughing and the lady looked positively sick. Funniest DDT I ever did….

  10. Mom used to get tamales from a lady who regularly set up shop near one of the tortillerias near downtown Dallas. They were really good, but mom’s taste in sauce for those ran to Wolf Brand chili, although she often made a batch of homemade chili that was pretty good – for some reason it didn’t often make it to the tamales… and my favorite TexMex places were the kind that made my wife ask if I had brought a gun with me when I first took her to them. And I think the DDT practice has been going on long before the 70’s – it was in the 60’s when we had them, maybe late 50’s.

  11. Being a GA boy, born and bred, I was raised on beef, pork and chicken BBQ and lip smacking ribs(not to mention fried fish on the grill at the Masonic Lodge fish fries’). But not so much tamales – ever. So I have to ask, do you eat the corn husk with it or open it up and fork it out?

    • Husk on while biting? If you attend a seance, ask President Gerald Ford. Omigawd, so funny …

    • Peel back and eat, if they are firm enough, otherwise have a separate husk plate. Unroll, set husk aside, and devour the contents.

  12. Old bosses wife used to make them every year (Mexican descent) but gradually everyone in her family stopped wanted to help but still wanted tamales. Finally she just quit completely.

    I wonder if a “tamale party” would attract a crowd just as a reason to get together. Hmmm.

  13. A coworker in Silicon Valley made tamales around Christmas. Between tamales and the Filipona lumpia and pancit, the December potlucks were awesome. (We white boys would get a spiral cut ham…)

    I did a Qwant (competition to the Goog) search on DDTs, and one thing that came up was “tamale” was occasionally street slang for heroin.

    One can imagine the confusion (and shootings) that could ensue at (real) tamale time.

    • Roomie mentioned in passing that his imminent Air BnB stay was hosted by a married couple where the wife was an accomplished Filipino cook. I immediately strongly suggested he beg for some lumpia and pancit. He just looked confused. His loss.

      • My wife says she went to a Filipino restaurant somewhere in Silicon Valley, and both the lumpia and pancit were heavily greased up. She hates them, while I have fond memories of what the Filipina* workers at our IC fab would bring to the potlucks. I don’t miss California, but would like some pancit…

        (*) I was told that the most intense gossip in the silicon works was spoken in Tagalog. This from a guy with a deceptive Hispanic surname… /snerk

  14. Del Rio… My dad had relatives there. What I liked was Wolfman Jack broadcasting from below the border and getting to me in mid-Missouri on my little radio.

  15. Down here in The Land of HEB, tamales are available year-round.

    • Si, es verdad – but they are only a bit better than canned ones 🙁
      As a kid in Texas I was partial to the canned ones made by AusTex, not sure that company even exists any more. Of course that was long before I ever had ‘real’ home made ones.

      • True, but “a bit better than canned ones” is better than “¡NO TAMALES FOR YOU! ¡NO ES INVIERNO!”

        • Boyd – I bought a pack of them store bought ones on my last HEB run – was out of staples (bacon and cheese). They weren’t ‘too’ bad. Best thing was they were substantial but waaay over priced.

          • I agree on the price, but there aren’t any drug…I mean, tamale dealers in Pflugerville, so HEB is it.

  16. You forgot Cream Cheese tamales. Almost sinful… almost.

  17. All- Thanks for the comments and sharing those memories! And yes, Richard, I HAVE been to the Zwolle Tamale festival more than once. My family’s home is in Negreet, just down the road.

  18. Maybe the Mexican grocery store up the street has them, it’s so sketchy we suspect it of being a front for .. something…

  19. This post and thread are making me hungry. Off subject, my 5 star review of Rimworld: The Rife is accepted by Walmart for your book. No other JL Curtis books though. Sad

  20. We had a gentleman used to show up in my powerplants shop at AIMD Dallas with either breakfast tacos or tamales. (Don’t know who he was, or how he got on base.) It wasn’t security or medical that put him out of business on the base. It was NEX.

  21. Somehow at almost the last minute Mom’s housekeeper dropped by with 4 or 5 dozen pork tamales that were ‘family hot’ along with two pints of different sauces. There were enough left that I brought a dozen home last night, along with both containers of sauce, and I KNOW I ate at least two dozen while I was there.

    We also had lunch at The Pier in White Oak yesterday, and I bought a half gallon of their incredible gumbo to enjoy in the New Year.

  22. Tangent: Pataya Beach, Thailand.
    I believe that’s where I discovered street vendors avoid you totally if the night before you dive into the shallow end of the pool and take off the skin on one side of your face.

  23. Tis is interesting and you’ve brought tamale vending into focus. Country cross roads, parking lot corner, abandoned lot… YES. That’s exactly right and right tasty they are too.

    Lately they’ve been appearing in filling stations and the local small franchise supermarket too.

    I like all of this.

  24. Rabbit- Nice on BOTH counts!

    Robert- LOL, yeah, I can believe that!

    LSP- So, we’ve converted you? 🙂

  25. Mrs. Drang says there’s a Mexican convenience sore across the parking lot from her office that is very popular with the local community, so, maybe…

  26. Now that I’ve read Dog’s piece, I know for a fact they are available here in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. My son’s a welder, and there are a number of Hispanic guys who work with him. Somebody’s wife (I think) has a Friday business at the shop, bringing in street tacos, your DDTs and an number of other edibles. What you get depends on the Friday. The kid loves them all.

    I tried them in a local Tex-Mex place and found them to be a cross between inedible and disgusting. I’m guessing I either had bad ones or didn’t know how to eat them. Maybe I need to go eat lunch with him some Friday.

  27. The Christmas Tamales are one of the very few things I miss about SoCal. The little abuela next door to us in Long Beach definitely made some of the best I’ve ever had. My wife would swap a plate of fudge and cookies for a dozen or so, and both families were ecstatic.

  28. Pattaya Beach, now that’s a memory (or twelve), what a fun place to be a sailor. Most people just wouldn’t understand… Was the PI on steroids. Youth is wasted on the young.