Jim and I went to Aardvark Letterpress this past Saturday to pick up our wedding invitations. They're beautiful and I'm so jazzed!
Then we walked down the street to the Tamale Festival and ran into Don Garza, Dave and his wife Penelope. Somehow, I found myself sitting onstage next to Don, as one of the judges for the Best Tamale Contest.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I had no plans to judge a gourmet tamale contest. I just wanted to pick up the invitations, eat a few tamales, then head back home to spend several more hours writing. Dave and Penelope couldn't stay, they took off. Jim reminded me that we were having dinner with my parents and my Aunt Beth and Uncle Danny from Florida at 6pm. But I couldn't turn down the opportunity to sample all those tamales. So Don handed his camera to Jim to take pictures, then he and I took our seats onstage, forks at the ready.
There were five judges in all, including me and Don. The tamales were rated 1 to 5, 5 being the highest score, on presentation, texture, flavor, originality and overall. We tasted chicken, pork, beef, vegetarian and dessert tamales. The first category we tasted were the chicken tamales and there were seven entries in that category alone. It took forever for all the judges to sample all the entries. I noticed the time and said to my fellow judges, "Can we make this snappy? I have a dinner thing I can't be late for."
The beef and pork categories went by a lot faster, despite the chit-chat between the judges. The judge to my right whispered to me that she was just giving a score of 2 across the board for presentation and originality. She stopped talking to me when I told her that was just plain lazy. Jeez, I was kidding. We're sitting at a folding table on a stage in the middle of 7th Street in MacArthur Park, not on a Food Network sound stage.
Then it was time to judge the vegetarian category. The judge to my left suggested we judge the vegetarian ones on presentation alone since no one really wanted to eat a vegetarian tamale. It was tempting, considering that by this time we had tasted about 21 tamales. But I tasted and rated all the vegetarian ones, it was only fair. Surprisingly, one of my favorite tamales won in the vegetarian tamale category (Gourmet Tamales).
I had a blast eating tamales and watching the audience from the stage. The entire time we were onstage, there were two drunks in front, dancing and screaming at the MC in Spanish. I didn't understand what they were saying, but they'd punctuate their rants with a shimmy and a booty shake so it was all highly entertaining. Finally, trophies were handed out in all categories and I got out of there in time to make dinner. But not before I was made to wear a hat made out of corn husks. Pictures of that can be found here. I still can't believe no booze was involved.