Tamales have often been compared to small, tightly wrapped gifts, thanks to the corn husk that serves as the packaging. Inside? Masa deliciousness and myriad combinations of meats, veges and fruits (raisins and chile is our top must-have filling combo -- sweet and spicy all the way). The International LA Tamale Festival and Dia de los Muertos celebration this weekend celebrates those sweet/spicy/fiery/satisfying little edible gift packages so many of us count as a favorite food.
Not that all the tamales at the festival are little, mind you. Previous festivals have seen tamales of enormous size -- one tamale was, at six feet, as long as a man is tall. And the variety of tamales is impressive (think beyond the traditional meat fillings to fruits like pineapple and sauces galore), as are the activities feting the food, like cooking demos (we'd love to know the secrets of a tight wrap) and eating competitions.
Dia de los Muertos is also a major part of the masa-based merriment; altars decorated with photos, candles and art commemorate our dearly departed (we wouldn't be surprised to see a few tamales included in the display as well). The weekend's entertainment includes a bevy of bands like Cuna de Lobos, Peanut Butter and The Jam and Samuel & Stephanie.
October 31, November 1 and 2
(Friday: 3-8PM; Saturday: 10AM-9PM; Sunday 11AM-6PM)
Mama's Hot Tamale Cafe at MacArthur Park, 2122 W. Seventh Street, Los Angeles
(festival is on Seventh between Parkview and Alvarado)