STEAM, HUSK, CORN, GOOD: The number of foodstuffs that can be eaten straightaway, once they're fully prepared, is on the very high side. Sure, you may sometimes need to open a bag or peel a piece of fruit, but digging into a pile of mashed potatoes or an apple is simply a matter of raising the fork, or the edible object in your hand, to your lips. There are, however, some legendary dishes that take a bit more work and a bit more waiting, and we love them all the more for it. You want the hunk of bread you've dipped into the bubbly fondue pot to get extra cheesy and you want the peanuts in your kung pao to soak up some sauce. As for the tamale? The husk, and the fragrant steam it releases upon opening, is so much a part of the ritual of enjoying it. So much so, in fact, that a tamale fan can become quite disappointed if they simply get handed a lukewarm tamale with no husk to be seen. There shall be many, many husks, and lots of delicious steam to soak in, pre-chowing down, in Oxnard over the first Saturday in December. It is, in fact, the Oxnard Tamale Festival, complete with its seasonally festive spokesperson -- spokestamale? -- Tamale Claus.
SATURDAY, DEC. 5... is the big, bite-into-it date, and a number of tamale-making specialists will be at Plaza Park, serving up all of the chewy, carne-filled, calabacitas-stuffed goodies you can handle. Attending is free, as is parking, so just have cash to buy all of the corn-lovely packets you want. Vendors at the 2014 gathering included Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, Panaderia La Mexicana Bakery, Mr. Corn Tamales, and more local favorites. As for what's on the stage? Munch away while you enjoy a bevy of troupes and acts, including Oxnard College Ballet Folklorico and La Sonora Explosiva. The only recommendation for maximizing your tamale experience is to, of course, find a quiet moment, now and then, to savor the whole husk-removal process. While other dishes are a snap to dig into, asap, there is something beautiful about the tamale's whole husk 'n steam reveal. Who'd want to rush that? No one, even if you haven't had a tamale since last tamale season. (That can't be true, surely?)