Central America, Costa Rica

Resume building on the road- Tamale assembly line worker

March 21, 2015
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Hundreds of tamales prepared and ready for cookin

Hundreds of tamales prepared and ready for cookin

One morning during our first Helpx experience we were introduced to the world of communal tamale assembly. Graduating from cleaning banana leaves to tying them up in preparation for boiling and cooking tamales was a huge deal for us and a huge jump in the tamale production line. We weren’t expecting there to be so much activity in a tiny town of 300 people. Fortunately for us the upcoming weekend would include a crazy mountain marathon on Saturday followed by a big futbol match between neighboring towns on Sunday. In preparation for all this was the community tamale making session held at the community center.

Piles of cleaned leaves

Piles of cleaned leaves

We we’re committed to a few hours of work which started with a huge pile of banana leaves that would be sorted, wiped down, and cut. These would provide the outer shell for the ingredients to be stuffed into to be cooked later. The locals assisted the gringos with the entire process, teaching us the proper ways to create stations and for the ultimate tamale making team.

Assembly line for tamale production

Assembly line for tamale production

At the one end of the room was the ingredients for tamales. Two lines were created to make the process a bit faster. In the corner was a tub of corn flour and laid out in rows were bowls of carrots, parsley, long slices of pork hot dogs, and rice. Individuals in charge of one or two ingredients, depending on their tamale seniority, put them on top of the corn flour. The women at the end of the food line would fold them tightly in two banana leaves and pass them to the person in charge or tying them together. Prior to tying, we had to prepare strings. Used rice bags were taken apart and the strings were pulled from this material. In the course of a couple of hours I went from clean bananas to tying the strings and finally throwing them into the pot for boiling.

In our time spent at the community center we met a large percentage of the town. We also met many volunteers from the Cloudbridge Reserve. Some were helping restore the forest, others there for wildlife conservancy, and a few graduate and PhD students doing research in agriculture. All and all it was a great morning and we successfully contributed to the creation of nearly 1000 tamales. While we had our hands in all this food we were unable to taste the tamales as the line on Saturday afternoon was absurd. Even as amateur tamale cooks we were sure they sold out within a few hours and had to turn people away. For those concerned about life on the road and a transition to the “real world” and a landing a job, tamale making is a great resume builder and skill to have!
The aftermath, hundreds of beautifully wrapped tamales

The aftermath, hundreds of beautifully wrapped tamales

For more on the area of San Gerardo and our first experience read these posts:

Don’t work for money, work for life- Our First Helpx Experience

The Secrets of Sendero Los Angeles- A walkable, breathable LA

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