Becia (Rebecca McClaskey). CONGRATULATIONS!
Today it's my great delight to welcome author Kristen Ethridge to Authors' Galley. I have a whole lot of fun with Kristen on Facebook as she is quite an amazing cook. And, having just enjoyed her debut novel, Saving Gracie, I can assure you that she stirs up a great story as well. Now, let's have a peek into her kitchen:
Made with Love
By Kristen Ethridge
In Hispanic cultures, few dishes say “made with love” quite like homemade tamales. Simple corn husks, masa, and filling combine together in a meal that is often the centerpiece of holidays. One friend of mine gathers with her sisters every Christmas season to make tamales in the same way their mother taught them—she’s been gone for many years, and the tamale tradition is one of many ways they keep her memory alive.
In Saving Gracie, my debut novel from Harlequin’s Love Inspired line, tamales take center stage as the heroine, Gracie Garcia, introduces the hero, Jake Peoples, to her family. The whole Garcia family has plenty of advice for Jake…but they try to disguise it as a culinary lesson.
“How many tamales are we going to make tonight?”
“Ten dozen, maybe a few more. They’re always popular at the church fund-raisers. Lots of families like to eat homemade tamales, but don’t always have the time to make them.” Mami squeezed between Jake and Gloria and removed a pan heavy with a mountain of tamale filling. “Anything worth having takes time and effort. A good tamale is no different, Jake.”
“That’s a good way of looking at it, Mrs. Garcia.”
“Oh, you should call me Juanita. Mrs. Garcia is Carlos’ madre.” She smiled that warm smile Gracie had known all her life, the smile that drew people in and made them immediate friends. Gracie hoped it made Jake feel at home in the Huarache’s kitchen.
“I think I’m about finished here, Juanita.” Jake dropped the last few shreds on top of the pile in front of him, then removed the spice-stained disposable gloves.
“Muy bien! You can help Gracie spread the masa on the corn husks, then I’ll come behind you and add the filling and Gloria can roll them up. Then we’ll start putting them in the steamer.”
A large aluminum mixing bowl, filled to the brim with masa, got pushed toward the open spot next to Gracie.
“What’s the best way to do this, Gracie?” Jake asked, moving just a bit closer to her than necessary. This wasn’t the first batch of tamales Gracie had a part in making. She knew it would not be the last. But she would certainly remember it as the most enjoyable.
Gracie retrieved a husk from the bowl of water to her right and laid it out before her. “After you get a softened husk, you reach in and grab a good handful of masa. Then with your fingers, you work it out evenly—all the way to the edges.”
That’s how you make them by yourself, Jake. When you make tamales with su novia, it’s much better to work like this.” Carlos stopped behind Juanita, wrapping his arms around her so that his hands slid between her arms and torso, making it appear that there were four hands preparing the corn and pork.
Gracie hoped Jake’s Spanish wasn’t good enough to realize the word Papi used could be translated as “girlfriend.” A small flush of embarrassment prickled at Gracie’s cheeks like the brush of a holly bush. She and Jake were nothing more than adversaries who were becoming friends. No matter how old a daughter got, a father could still embarrass her without even trying.
“Maybe you’re right, Carlos.” Jake came up behind Gracie. “That would definitely make it more fun.”
What about you? Have you ever made tamales before? I have, and it’s a lot of fun. Here’s a link to a very easy, traditional-style recipe that you might want to try. I like to make a unique version with chicken and pineapple in the filling. What foods say “made with love” to you? Is it a recipe you identify with a particular family member or holiday? Or something else entirely?
Post your favorite “made with love” meal in the comments below and be entered to win a copy of Saving Gracie!
***Now I'm hungry for tamales myself--pineapple, what a great addition!
Thank you, Kristen, for joining us on Authors' Galley.
Folks, when answering Kristen's question, be sure include an e-mail address. I'll draw the winning name (using random.org) on Wednesday March 13th and notify the winner via e-mail. Meanwhile . . .
Bon Appetit and happy reading!