I’m nothing if not consistent..true to form, I am obsessive about vegan food. Confession….my current obsession is TAMALES. I am spending my time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, going square eyed watching vignettes on YouTube of tamales being rolled. They are mostly body shots or shots of nimble hands forking masa onto yellow corn husks (a bit like Tom & Jerry, where you only ever see the humans from the neck down!)….and it’s all Deborah from La Guera Tamaleras fault!
Had I not had the pleasure of tasting her bloody perfect sasquash tamales I wouldn’t of got HOOKED! She set the bar pretty God damn high for me to reach….if I could EVER to try and recreate her objects of steaming perfection, to ensure I am never long without them. I knew about La Guera from the About Us page on her website. Her inventive fillngs, her top quality ingredients, where she delivers and even a cute picture of her as wee lass. But my mind chattered with questions, my taste buds sent me flavoured memories….
After reading every sweet syntax and drooled over every picture on her website…..
..I was still filled with questions..wanting to keep the contact with the Queen of tamale land. So I BEGGED her to let me do an interview with her for my blog. She agreed. Yey!
How did you feel about starting a business within such a small niche?
I suppose I didn’t really think about it from the standpoint of it being a small niche. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Looking back, I suppose it would have been more circumspect to approach things from a what-can-I-do-to-make-money angle instead of a hey-this-could-be-fun perspective, but I think it’s important to own a good set of rose-colored glasses when you start any new venture. Really, just seeing how many tamales the family who trained me were making and selling made succeeding seem possible. Good thing I don’t have a burning desire to be rich and famous; I’m happy when I can just pay my bills and chill.
I was totally absorbed when you were sharing with me how you are just following the openings for your business as they come (like the guerrella delivery).
Ahem, that’s Guer-rilla Delivery, (a combo of Guera + Guerrilla) and yeah, I think you have to remain flexible in life, probably even more so in business. Keep your eyes open to opportunities, and don’t be afraid to be creative and explore uncharted territory. Everyone’s so quick to tell you what to do, but really, you’re the one who’s going to know what’s best for you, what your access to capital is, what your personal bandwidth is. Cautiously following my instincts has always worked for me.
Here’s a link to Guer-rilla Delivery Info and FAQ DELIVER ME MASA HEAVEN!
My website is about vegan food, though I know you supply carne also. I’m happy to report to everyone that you pride yourself in preparing vegan tamales to ensure no cross contamination. You herald the use of organic & non-gmo ingredients. Can you offer a few thoughts about the healthy slant on the tamales you developed.
Well, back when starting this business was just a glimmer in my eye, I did a little internet search for “tamales Los Angeles.” What I found was that you pretty much can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a tamaleria. If I wanted to go forward, I knew I had to set myself apart somehow. The first thing I did was to experiment with taking out the lard. (After a week or two in Mexico, I always felt like someone had just wrung out my intestines. The family I stay with uses lard in EVERYTHING, from tamales to pozole. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, just a little on the harsh side for this delicate flower.) From there, it was only natural, so to speak, for me to use organic ingredients, since that’s my personal preference anyway. I figured I would just make something that I would love to eat, see if other people agree, and then go from there. It didn’t take long for the vegans to find me; you guys are on it! That’s why I added an additional vegan flavor (Sesame Kale) to join the already popular Spinach & Shiitake Mushroom. The sweet tamales don’t have animal products in them, either.
When are your favourite tamale eating moments?
I don’t know if I have a general favorite tamale-eating time of day, if that’s what you mean, but I will tell you about two singular experiences that stand out in my mind. The first was when I perfected my recipe for Strawberry Tamales. I was alone, and I think it was my third pass at the recipe. I pulled the sample from the steamer, gave it a few minutes to cool, and peeled the husk back in anticipation. I will tell you that it smelled amazing. When I took my first bite, I felt a warm buzz flow through my body and my eyes rolled back into my head. Sounds like hyperbole, I know, but it’s really true. I remember saying aloud: Now I can die happy.
The second tamale experience I’ll tell you about is very similar. I’d been working on a special vegan recipe for my upcoming tamalada (tamale-making party), and I just couldn’t seem to get it quite right. Finally, after what seemed like countless tries, I came up with a vegan version of our popular Blue Corn Jalapeño & Cheese, using blue corn non-GMO masa, fresh organic jalapeños, and vegan Daiya ‘cheese.’ Seriously, that warm buzz and eye-rolling thing happened again…guess that’s the benchmark of bliss…that or a precursor to a seizure. Either way, I can’t wait to teach this killer recipe next month at the Cottage on the grounds of the Hollywood Bowl. FingerS crossed I can make it to the party, even if I have to walk all the way there on my knees!
Thanks Deborah! The Queen of the Tamale!