Ah, Neiman Marcus. Merchant of high-end mall fashion, provenance of what may be the most famous chocolate chip cookie recipe and now the retailer that wants to take down your abuela’s tamale business. Guess what, mijos? While you’re ordering another pair of Tory Burch flats in this season’s must-have gunmetal, you can also pick up six dozen handmade tamales. (Thanks, Pocho, for the heads up.)
Because if you’re fancy enough to shop at that end of the mall, you’re way too fancy to buy your hipster gluten-free tamales from the Mexican grocery or, heaven forefend, some truck. Oh, my, no! Not when you can purchase them in the manner to which you are accustomed, in a context you understand, from the right people. I think you know what I mean.
Neiman’s tamales (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d write) are made with lard — because they’ve heard the news about good lard — and stone-ground corn (is there any other kind of masa?) and top-quality meats, not that mystery meat from that fly-infested market on the other side of town.
As you can tell, these tamales are pushing all my daughter-of-Mexican-immigrants buttons. “Don’t be so sensitive,” I can folks saying. “People take offense at everything these days!” Well before you whip out your Politically Incorrect and Proud of It crewneck T-shirt (because it would be crewneck), I am seeing the silver lining here. It’s actually foil lining, but I digress.
I think it’s fascinating that Neiman Marcus has put tamales in their catalog, along with the Enchilada Dinner and the Southwest Appetizer Trio. I mean, Mexican food really has arrived, hasn’t it? Like, if someone’s willing to shell out a hundred bucks for tamales, the food of immigrants, the food of poor people, the food you make to stretch that meat, “top-quality” or not, that means something, right?
I don’t know what it means exactly because no self-respecting Mexican-American is going to buy her tamales from Neiman Marcus, I don’t care how bougie she is. But knowing how much my late Grandma Maria Luisa loved both Neiman Marcus and tamales I desperately wish I could be sharing this news with her right now. I think she’d be highly amused.