mi familia: tradition

calivintage: making tamales

in between sets of outfit photos taken while visiting family in redlands, i tried to take the time to snap a few personal photos to keep  as memories. while many of these are just for me, i thought it would be fun to share a little glimpse at my favorite holiday traditions. and yes, they revolve around food. like many mexicans and mexican-americans around the country, my family all gathers around the kitchen table on christmas eve to make tamales! this year, i sat at the table with my grandmother, mom, sister, and brother to spread masa and fill the tamales with our favorite fillings. we used to just make the traditional pork with red chile, but have since come to love a vegetarian style with california chiles stuffed with jack cheese as well. you can really put whatever you want in a tamale, but these are the two flavors that everyone in my family enjoys. though for fun, this year my mom bought some pre-made strawberry and pineapple masa for a little variety.

it may sound silly, but my grandma usually makes spanish rice and potato salad to complete the meal and we top it off with her home made salsa. i suppose it’s just one of those hybrid meals that springs up from a mexican family living in southern california for generations. i joke that it’s about the food, but clearly it’s so much more than that to me. i can remember sitting around the table spreading masa way back when i was a little girl and my great-grandma was there, too. four generations of women sitting around the table to learn and enjoy the tradition passed down from so many generations before us.

anyway, i know this is a boatload of pictures already, but you can view the full set here.

calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: making tamales
calivintage: tamales

chicken with mole
calivintage: preparing mole
calivintage: chopping onions
calivintage: chicken with mole
this year, my sister also decided to make chicken with mole and rice, so we enjoyed a veritable feast as we sat around the tree opening presents.

menudo and pan dulce
calivintage: menudo and pan
i very rarely get to stay in town long enough to celebrate new year’s day with my family, but this year i was lucky enough to be there to enjoy my grandmother’s home made menudo. i know it’s an acquired taste for many, but for me, it’s a real treat. the only day of the year that we get to enjoy this dish is on new year’s. i remember when i was a little kid, we would heat up the tortillas and roll them up to dip into the broth. this of course, naturally meant that the little tortilla roll could be used as a straw for us to drink the hot broth from the bowl. we would also enjoy warm pan dulce from the local panaderia. i still can’t decide my favorite, but i love the look of those bright pink conchas!
calivintage: pink concha
calivintage: menudo and pan


  1. wow!! thanks for sharing this post!! im mexican as well and we made tamales too!!! like i had no idea you were latina!!! that’s what our kitchen looked liked :) Conchas!! i love chocolate ones!!!

  2. This all looks delicious (although, being an Australian living in London I have no idea what they all are). Family traditions are awesome, and especially when they are passed down from generation to generation…you’re really lucky to have that! :-)

  3. Oh…those look amazing!

    I love your blog–this is the first time I have left a comment :) oh… you passed me on the street in San Francisco last month. I would have said hello, but I was in a hurry to get to dinner.

  4. Ohh such wonderful photos, and an awesome tradition. I have similar memories with homemade dumplings and growing up. Ah but seriously, these photos are making me miss eating good tamales. I’d always get one with chicken with salsa verde for breakfast when I lived in Mexico City. P.S. Pink conchas? It’s soo cute!

  5. What a beautiful way to capture a family tradition! My family is Colombian, so many of our traditions revolve around food and the kitchen table as well. The part of the four generations of women sitting around the table hit close to home.

    On another note, I actually just got back from Tulum, Mexico where I had some of the best mole sauce ever! Have you been? http://www.theyoufinder.com/home/2012/01/04/tulum-through-a-foodie-lens/


  6. OH MY. this is such a beautiful post. the food looks entirely delicious but what hit home most is you sharing about your family traditions being passed down through generations of women. i believe it’s so important for different generations of women to be present with each other so that they can share knowledge, stories, strength and memories – thank you for giving us a little glimpse into your traditions! :)

    1. thank you! i’ve always been very reserved about sharing personal stories and things like this, but more and more i realize that they are an important part of my life and it is a special thing to have the opportunity to share them with such a beautiful audience. so it makes me feel so happy to know that you enjoyed it!

    1. hehe, yes. everyone in my family is a bit of a fiend when it comes to finding the perfect pan mexicano. my grandma especially love the little piggies, but they have to be just so in order for her to eat them, haha.

  7. Love this, wonderful reminiscence. My family makes tamales at Christmas too, though our tradition only started about five years ago. :)

  8. Are you kidding me! That looks so delicious! It’s late afternoon and I’ve suddenly got a crazing for tamales. One of my Dad’s co-workers used to give us a bunch of home-made tamales during the holidays as gifts. They were so great because if we couldn’t eat all of them, we would throw them in the freezer. So good! Thanks for sharing this delicious family tradition.

  9. What a beautiful photo story. I love tamales around the holidays too. We didn’t make our own this year, but it really looks like a lot of fun (and hard work!)

  10. Dave makes tamales with his mom, be she also is hoping to open a restaurant and sell them soon! ah i love them,…she makes cactus ones for me being a veg head as well :D

  11. It really is great seeing a little glimpse into a family’s traditions! I hope you get the chance to express more personal moments in 2012! I know it’s a goal I have this year on my blog, just for the sake of remembering things! When I was looking back on 2011, I realized there was a lot I couldn’t remember and I don’t want next year to turn out the same. Life is too short!

    1. i’ve resolved not to make any resolutions, but that’s just a cop out. i do hope to share more personal moments this year and agree that it’s important to do. sometimes i forget how valuable it can be to express ourselves more wholly. it’s easy to focus on fashion, but there is so much more to each individual just waiting to be shared. i’m excited to see what you have to share!

  12. This is a really warm and beautiful post! Plus the food looks amazing. I’ll have to try making tamales now. And mole – yum! At a potluck once, I tried homemade mole sauce for the first time and it was so good. No surprise that the store-bought just isn’t the same. Thanks for sharing your traditions – what about the family recipes too? :) Happy New Year!

  13. I had no idea you were a Latina, I am Mexican too, I live in Richmond (not too far from Oakland)

    This year my family didn’t have tamales but we did enjoy some delicious enchiladas :D

  14. I love this post! Fashion + food is the best combination :) This inspires me to attempt tamales sometime, we have a family friend that used to make sweet tamales for us every Christmastime. I really miss eating them!

  15. That looks incredibly delicious!! I am Latina also (Puerto-Rican) and Christmas usually entails pernil (pork shoulder), pasteles (mashed, boiled plantains with pork, garbonzos and potatoes) and arroz con gandules!

    I have heard of this Mexican tradition of tamales and boy does it look good!!! Happy New Year!!

  16. do this more!! i love these pics….and so nice to see a little glimpse into your own personal traditions for the holidays. i’ll have to show my hubby who is half mexican.

  17. I was raised by my grandmother and being Mexican as well, we were definitely at the table making tamales for the holidays. She died when I was 16 and I’m not particularly close to my family so that’s a tradition I don’t share with them anymore. Doesn’t make me sad because it’s a tradition I can share with my in-laws and we have a blast because there are always margaritas and we get all boracha ^.^ I’ve also learned how to make traditional mexican orange cookies! So it’s all good. Your pictures are great and really capture something special.

  18. Erin, this post is all kinds of awesome!
    I’m from Spain, and here all celebrations revolve around food, just like in your home. Usually in Nochebuena (Christmas eve) we bake pastelitos de Navidad (pumpkin cakes?), which is also a long process (specially the dough) but oh so fun. I have such fond memories of my mum and aunts singing christmas carols with their sweet sweet voices while working, and my grandpa used to help us too (my grandma died way before I was born, but I hear she was an exceptional baker).
    Sadly this year I skipped on this tradition, as I was spending the day at my in-laws, and they don’t like to cook together. My husband only has brothers, and it seems that the man are not included in the kitchen :( such a pity.

    Anyway, this is my first comment, and I wanted to tell you that your blog is great (i’ve been lurking around here for a while). Happy 2012!

  19. yeeah!! All the ladies in my family made tamales too! I miss it now that we are all grown up and live all over. We had pan dulce and also buñuelos!!

  20. This tradition looks and sounds wonderful – I would love to try making tamales with experts like your mother and grandmother. I love the conchas too! I never knew that was the name for them! :)


  21. What a great post Erin! I had read your surname and saw it’s Spanish, but didn’t know where it came exactly, now I know it. Anyway, loved this post and hope you’ll share more things like this! Siempre te leo!

    besos desde Madrid!

    PD. Se ve todo riquísimo!!! :-)

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