A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 21, 2006
Tamal (Tamale)

The tamal (or tamale) is an ancient (pre-Columbian) Mexican food that’s popular throughout the southwestern United States.


Texas Tamale Company
Texas Tamale Seasonal Specials
Christmas Tamale Tradition

One of the oldest Mexican culinary traditions is Tamale making at Christmas. Families gather together and make several dozen of their own Tamales, using the finished prouct for gifts and parties.

Texas has adopted this old Christmas tradition and, today, many Texans think Tamales are as much a sign of the holiays as turkey and cranberries.

Wikipedia: Tamale
A tamale or tamal (from Nahuatl tamalli) is a traditional Latin American food consisting of a corn meal dough filled with meats, cheese (post-colonial), and sliced chiles or any preparation according to taste. The tamale is generally wrapped in a corn husk before cooking.

Tamales are an ancient American food, made throughout the continent for over 5000 years. Their essence is the corn meal dough (called masa, or a masa mix such as Maseca), usually filled with a sweet or savory filling, wrapped in plant leaves or corn husks, and cooked, usually by steaming, until firm. Tamales were developed as a portable ration for use by war parties in the ancient Americas, and were as ubiquitous and varied as the sandwich is today. 

(Oxford English Dictionary)
tamal
Also tamaul, erron. tamale. [Mexican Sp. tamal, pl. tamales (-ales).]
A Mexican delicacy, made of crushed Indian corn, flavoured with pieces of meat or chicken, red pepper, etc., wrapped in corn-husks and baked.
1856 OLMSTED Texas (Bartl.), This [crowd] attracts a few sellers of whiskey, tortillas, and tamaules. 1860 BARTLETT Dict. Amer., Tamal, or Tamauli. 1884 Boston (Mass.) Jrnl. 16 Feb. 2/2 A queer article of food, known as ‘tamales’, is sold in the streets of San Francisco at night by picturesquely clad Spaniards.

A History of Ancient Mexico
(1547-1577)
by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun
Translated by Fanny R. Bandelier
from the Spanish version of Carlos Maria de Bustamante
Fisk University Press, Nashville
1932
Republished by Blaine Ethridge Books, Detroit
1971
Pg. 218:
They also gave food to everyone present, consisting of diverse kinds of tamales and moles as explained here.(1)
(1) This may be so in the original; here no further explanation is given.
Pg. 228:
...your tamales mouldy....

Thomas Gage’s
Travels in the New World
edited by J. Eric S. Thompson
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press
1958
(The English-American His Travail By Sea and Land: Or, A New Survey of the West-India’s,
London: R. Cotes, 1648)
Pg. 186:  ...the Indian women meet to sell their country slop (which is dainties to the Creoles) as atole, pinole (a drink of parched maize), scalded plantains, butter of the cacao, puddings made of Indian maize, with a bit of fowl or fresh pork in them seasoned with much red biting chile, which they call anaca tamales.

Historical and Descriptive Narrative of Twenty Years’ Residence in South America
by W. B. Stevenson
London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green
1829
In three volumes
VOLUME ONE
Pg. 369:
After the paste is made from the boiled maize it is seasoned with salt and an abundance of (Pg. 370—ed.) capsicum, and a portion of lard is added: a quantity of this paste is then laid on a piece of plantain leaf, and some meat is put among it, after which it is rolled up in the leaf, and boiled for several hours. This kind of pudding is called tamal, a Quichua word, which inclines me to believe, that it is a dish known to the ancient inhabitants of the country.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, December 21, 2006 • Permalink