The Tamale’s Biggest Weekend

Masa magic rules at Indio's giant food festival.

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JUST ABOUT THIS TIME: There's a lot of talk of office holiday parties and friendly cocktail get-togethers right about this time of year. One awaits an invitation to the big soiree (or not, if the holidays have become too much and staying in feels right). But the come-on-over hardly anyone can ignore is the the tamale-making party. They're a staple of life in Arizona, New Mexico, and much of California, and they require a few elements: stacks of husks, a creamy but thick masa, filling such as carne asada or zucchini, and, yes, a blender of margaritas. (Well, that's how our mom runs her tamale parties, anyway.) The upshot is you leave with a few dozen husk-wrapped beauties, and the knowledge that the eating in December is about to get a lot tastier. Of course, there is another alternative to accepting all of those tamale-making party invites (which we totally think you should): Head for Indio on Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2.

WORLD'S RECORD: One of the December to-do's biggest claim to fame is the fact that the world's largest tamale was made there in 1999. But regardless of year, vendor after vendor lines up at the Indio International Tamale Festival to make tamales their way. Isn't that one of the glorious things about this particular classic? There are hundreds if not thousands of great versions, including a dessert tamale. (Not sure there's been a tamale beverage or cocktail yet, but we'll bet someone is dreaming it up.) The fest also includes a carnival, fam-friendly haps, and a tamale-eating contest. We're full after two, but there's always room for a third, right?

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