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Unique Gifts II: Let them eat tamales
Photo courtesy:

By Joshua Pilkington

Part II of IV

The Black Friday deals have all but expired. Cyber Monday has come and gone as well. And though Colorado Gives Day is less than a week away, chances are the money you had to give, has been given.

With that in mind we offer a basic solution for those whom you’ve yet to find a gift: food.

That is this week’s unique gift in La Vida Latina’s Unique Gift Series. Food in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles.

Though culinary delicacies are truly a gift that can be given year round and in almost any setting, those given around the holidays tend to be the most creative and delectable.

The holidays are known for grateful consumption. Across the globe fabulous feasts are prepared as much in homes that have as they are in homes that have not, as Ana Garcia can attest from her childhood.

“I think that is part of the reason why, as a child, I held this time of year in high esteem,” said the 47-year-old Denver resident who was raised in Guatemala. “We did not have much and often our gifts were dolls my mother made for us, but we always had what I remember were the most fabulous meals that time of year. Even now I think of how grateful I was that we could have such wonderful meals.”

Unbeknownst to the young Garcia at the time, the “fabulous meals” her mother and father were able to put on the table were not only owed the fruits of their labor, but also to the generosity of their surrounding community.

“We were part of a small church community in Quetzaltenango and they were always looking out for those of us that did not have much,” she said. “It wasn’t until I had moved out and found my own life that I realized so many of my favorite holiday memories were owed to the generosity of others.”

Modern advances have made the gift of food much easier to come by. Most major grocers in the country provide gift cards that can be given in person or anonymously and, if your gift recipient does not have a vehicle or the means to prepare a holiday meal, many grocers and restaurants also provide delivery services.

“We like to make treats for our friends and neighbors,” said Camila Hendricks, who likes to keep some Caribbean holiday traditions going in her suburban neighborhood. “I like to give things with a Puerto Rican flare like Coquito, which is kind of our version of eggnog, but better. My husband is the chef, so he bakes cookies or makes something with chocolate that we can put in bags and take around to neighbors.”

Garcia added that she has a similar practice that has created some buzz in her neighborhood and among her church community.

“Guatemalan tamales are the best tamales,” she says with both laughter and defiance. “We use the savory hoja de plátano (banana leaf) instead of the corn husk and we add savory fillings that compliment the soft, rice flour.”

Garcia’s holiday tamales, with their green banana leaves and a “family secret” red sauce, are such a festive hit in her neighborhood she often finds herself preparing hundreds. With three children and a 40-hour work week taking up most of her schedule, the task seems daunting, but Garcia takes it on with a smile and an air of gratitude.

“It’s a lot of work, but I don’t mind,” she said. “When I think about how much work so many people put into helping our family celebrate comfortably for years…this is just my way of saying thank you.”





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