I think the tamale is an acquired taste. It is only in the last year or so that I can enjoy a tamale. There are a few places where we buy our tamales...
The lady at the ferry dock, sitting on the concrete bench with a pot of hot tamales. These tamales are pretty good, either eaten right away or taken back home to eat later.
A family in Colonia Canotal that prepares them on the BBQ on weekends. These tamales are drier and I would prefer them if only they were not so burned around the edges.
Our favorite tamales get delivered right to our door by "The Tamale Lady", of unknown age but looks to be in her 60's or so. The Tamale Lady first showed up a year or so ago, and Miguel started buying from her. Our neighbors around the corner were looking for good tamales, so we told them to buy from The Tamale Lady. Now, if they see The Tamale Lady, they call on the phone to let us know she is coming around, and they tell her we are home and waiting to buy some of her tamales.
Right now our neighbors are away, so The Tamale Lady just comes down our road. We hear her before we see her. "Tamales". "Tamalitos". "Tamales". Usually we grab some money and go out to the road to meet her.
Sometimes The Tamale Lady is with another lady who seems to be her helper. One dishes out the tamales while the other holds the pot. I'm not sure if they are just friends or family.
Sometimes The Tamale Lady and her helper come when it's not convenient to go to the street (i.e., I'm taking a siesta). The front door is open and there is light on inside, indicating someone is home. But when they get no response to their tamale announcement, they debate - "Si, estan". "No, no estan". (Yes, they're there. No, they aren't). "No hay nadie" (Nobody's there). "No carrito" (no golf cart). They are looking for all the clues as to whether or not someone is home. They don't know, I guess, that sometimes Miguel is out and I am home alone. I lay there chuckling, because their debate is humorous to me. Yes, I'm here. But I'm not answering the door. They are never in a hurry, so they stand there while deciding if they should give us more time to answer, all the time debating if we are or we are not there. Finally they leave.
We don't really know where The Tamale Lady lives. Sometimes she will be gone for months, and we wonder if she is sick. But then she shows up again - she was in her puebla (her home town), we don't know why.
Lately The Tamale Lady has been coming around by herself. The other night she ran into Miguel down at the corner and said that she was having to work very hard to sell her tamales that night because the politcal rally was on over by the mercado and they were giving away free food, which meant nobody wanted to buy her tamales, even if anyone was found at home. Unfortunately we didn't have any money so couldn't help her out by buying anything ourselves.
Yesterday The Tamale Lady came by around 7 pm, and I went out to place my order. Since we were expecting guests who I suspected would like to try her tamales, I told her I would like 6 tamales.
As she pulled the tamales out of the pot, she commented on the ceramic sign we had out at the curb (a sign for the cab driver bringing our guests). She said that it was a pretty sign, but that she didn't know what it said. She told me she could not read it. In fact, she can't read at all. Nothing. So I told her what the sign said - "Casa Susana". Two words - one my name, and the other due to the fact that this is my house.
She carried on counting out the tamales, and then I asked how much. 12 pesos per tamale, so I calculated 72 pesos. She agreed, and made change for my 200 peso note. I said "You can't read but you can certainly do mathematics!". "Si", she said, "con mis dedos" (with my fingers). She was grinning and held up her hand to show me how she quickly uses her fingers to do the math. I'm not sure how she did it - she never put down the pot but managed to pull 6 tamales out and put them on a plate that she also held, and fished out 3 bags of sauce, AND calculated, using her fingers, how much I owed her.
No, she can't read, but it's not because she is not capable.
I mentioned this to Miguel, and suggested that he might gently tell her about adult school, and encourage her to attend, to learn how to read. He said she would not go, she would be ashamed. But I said he should encourage her anyway. I will remind him the next time I hear "Tamales, Tamalitos, Tamales"...