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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Memories of Grandma: South Omaha Chili


I've written about it before, the priceless cookbook my grandmother handed down to me. When my mother passed away, my grandma bought me a copy of this precious cookbook and I have cherished it ever since.

My mom had this rule, "I'll only make chili with month's containing the letter R" because June, July & August were off limits because chili is such a hearty dish.

Another part of our letter R chili ritual would be enjoying it with Grandma Marie's "hot tamales."  Grandma Marie made "hot tamales" for everyone in South Omaha. Bars, church functions -- anyone who would buy them. It was her way of making an income after my grandfather had a stroke in the 1970s.

The "hot tamale" operation was on the down low because she was doing them in the second kitchen in her house, not certified by the health department, yet everyone knew about them.

She purchased a machine that combined one side of a cooked cornmeal like substance with seasoned spicy beef/pork. She then would enlist her assistants (grandchildren, children, cousins, nieces, nephews) to help with assembly.  Instead of corn husks, she did it the Polish way; she had her helpers wrap them in parchment paper. Now you know why I preface it "hot tamale." They were tamale-like but not really tamales.

September would come, and my mom would make a double batch of chili from a recipe in the Bohemian Cookbook. She'd then steam a dozen "hot tamales" and then we'd proceed to build out chili-tamale bowls. Tamale -->Chili-->Cheese. Yum, right?

My brother still carries on the tamale tradition though they still taste great, don't quite have my grandma's touch.

However, since I don't live near Omaha, I use cornbread instead of tamales to sorta, kinda, recreate my chili-tamale bowls.

Here's the recipe from the Bohemian Cookbook (it's the second one) -- Enjoy!

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