Thursday, December 1, 2011

Linda's tamales

Linda, Linda, Linda, there were things she excelled at, things she could care less about, and things
she pretty much knew she had down pat. Cooking was the last on this list. Girl didn t need no
cookbook, knew what she was doing, cooked for some time now, she enjoyed cooking, and did in
fact produce some pretty memorable meals.
One of my faves, steamed aspera grass wrapped in thin sliced ham, lightly fried then blanketed
with Hollandaise sauce. With an entre on the side, good stuff indeed! I cook also, have been
since before I met the girl. I refer to the cookbook, every time, hard cooked eggs, look em up.
Regardless of how many times I ve done it or how simple a dish, I read the entire recipe.
I learned working in the trades, you have to follow the directions, read the print. Although I soon
learned the plan is often wrong! That s part of the reason it needs to be studied. Sometimes a lot
of study. Having said that, when the blueprint is wrong, it s right! Build according to the plan.
Do not deviate. My only job was to follow direction. Not second guess a highly trained, CAD
assisted college graduate. Either ask about an issue, through RFI, or build using the dimensions
given, and explain when an owner or architect, asks if you have gone mad. Show them the funny
page, says so right there, look. Surly, you knew there is supposed to be a door? How you expect
to use this space? Its your plan, I have no idea what you are thinking, I just build. You want a
door? Show me where it goes. On the plan, I m just a dumb old carpenter. This releases you
from liability, if you religiously follow the plan, and they are wrong, it is on them to pay for the
correction. If, however, you assume, and do the correction, without approval, you way over step
your authority, what if is structurally significant? And you field correct it, not being a licenced
architect, you might have seriously undermined the integrity of the structure. So, follow the plan.
If the plan is wrong, it is still correct. This has economic benefits also, you back charge for
having to custom build, off the plan, this charge, isn t part of the signed contract, although it is
spelled out in the contract, just what will be charged for plan changes. Some cases where there a
lot of mistakes in the plan, this can amount up to and beyond the original bid. Bad plans equal
more money. Makes them check their work, also. Architect s share in cost over runs, if their
plans contain too many mistakes. There are people who s job is to find these plans and take full
advantage of them. Ka-Ching!!
 My meals nearly always taste the same today as they did last month, or last year. Read, follow
the plan, measure, cook, taste alright. Linda, I never use that, I have a memory! I have one too,
sometimes I forget. So the quality of our dinners suffered some, we got used to it, who wants
their food to always taste the same, gets boring that. We even had a game to go along, called,
  What s the Missing Ingredient? Kids and I loved the game, got Linda involved also. Maybe
she left stuff out just to play the game?? Until I took over cooking, but that is for a separate topic.
One year, she enlisted me to help with about ten dozen tamales. My job, the only thing I did was
spread the masa on the corn husks, table spoon of meat, roll, then do it again. Thanksgiving,
Christmas, New Year s, Easter, every one best excuse for tamales ever. The rest of the year, not
so much. Ten dozen! Making them for friends and family, even have a few to sell. This was not
her first time, she made them with her Mother and family since she was little. Using Mama s
recipe now, nothing like keeping a tradition alive. The only real difference? Ten dozen, just the
two of us, took hours, cooking the meat and sauces, soaking the husks, kneading the masa. Hot
too, had to open the door. Usually, from my observations, Linda would begin steaming the
tamales as soon as enough were assembled to cook a batch. This time, so much to do, one step at
a time, didn t want to forget and over cook, or burn them. Need them all, have some to sell, too.
Tamale making seems to require that the kitchen get totally trashed, maybe so you clean it real

good, get the old stuff too. How does the masa end up on the walls? Don t ask me! How
should I know, my job was to put the stuff on the corn husks, wasn t looking around. Like I said,
the kitchen hot, me too, Linda, she s the one working though, had masa and sauce in her hair, on
her face, all over her chest, uh, blouse, using her hands, brushing back hair, wiping sweat from her
brow, we usually ended up making sure one of us was as messy as the other. Would get so the
kids would come running, then they get some too. Linda placed some in the pot, and soon
enough, Tamales! I always liked them, eat so many at once I get sick. We sat at the table
remarking that we really did something this year, ever see so many tamales? Soon enough, or just
in time, out the pot they come, got to wait, too hot. Burn the mouth, not fun. So with me keeping
an eye on the cooked tamale s, Linda re-loaded the steamer, went for plates and once more we
talked, Always look forward to the first taste of the first batch of the season, we talked about it so
much, I almost got a cramp in my taste buds, needed a tamale fix NOW! As we unrolled our treat,
it was immediately apparent something was wrong, terribly wrong,. As Linda s face went from
anticipation to confusion, to disappointment, to shock, to embarrassment, I scooped up some of
mine and ate. It was nasty, the worst, knew from experience Linda cooked creatively, I didn t
think she was capable of cooking this poorly. As I tried to keep from gagging, Linda announced
she had forgotten the lard!! Only the second most important ingredient besides the corn. She
hadn t eaten any yet, crushed, she said we could eat them ourselves, certainly couldn t give or sell
these. Wait, Linda, there s more. With a question on her face, I said, You forgot the salt, also.
Most important ingredient number three. There is only one other ingredient for the masa, beef
broth. And just like in base ball, she was out. Had to go lay down. Invested a lot of time, effort
and money in something even the dog wouldn t eat. It s O.K. honey, we can salvage as much as
we can, I ll begin recovering the meat, and tossing out the masa and husks, go to the store, get
what we need. It took twice as long, cost a third more, and she second guessed herself
relentlessly. Success at last! As I said in the beginning, Linda made some memorable meals....

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