Last weekend, in lieu of watching football and eating as much meat as I could stomach, which is honestly something I have done in the past with great vigor and enjoyment, my husband and I decided to celebrate Candlemas/Imbolc with our friends. When we made the decision in late December, we had no idea that the Superbowl was on the same Sunday, but when invitations to Superbowl parties started popping up, I was happy to be able to decline.
Since you ask, “what in the world is Candlemas?” I guess I should tell you.
Candlemas is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, commonly celebrated by the lighting of candles, cleaning out of closets, and eating tamales in Latin American countries. Well, candles are cool, and cleaning is okay. But, the opportunity to cook tamales was irresistible. So, we decided to begin a tradition of our own by having a second installment of our vegan “Friendsgiving” celebration, we invited all of our close friends over to make vegan tamales and have a bonfire.
As you have surely noticed in my profile picture, I’m a white girl, and therefore very inexperienced at making tamales. I didn’t let that stop me though! I love cooking, especially with spices that are new to me. In order to be respectful to Latin American culture, I challenged my friends to purchase all of their ingredients locally, preferably at a business owned by a Latin American person. Luckily, my town has several grocery stores that fit those criteria. We had a blast poking around in stores that were unfamiliar, primarily in a different language, and full of delicious looking food that will surely inspire a future holiday built around tacos or empanadas.
We started cooking around 12 and finally ate at 4:30. We collectively made four types of salsa, pico de gallo, fresh tortilla chips, fried plantains, roasted zucchini, “pulled pork” jackfruit, guacamole, mashed malanga root, Cuban style black beans, and a beautiful array of tropical fruits. As you can imagine, the six of us had quite the feast and leftovers to spare.
Imagine if more holidays were more intentional and filled with meaning. I have always dreaded traditional holidays, because for my family it always means hours of cooking, a few minutes of eating, and an hour of doing dishes before leaving. I much prefer the alternative “friendsgiving” style, which can definitely be done by families as well. Instead of one family hosting and providing most of the dishes, every person is responsible for making one dish. This way, no one is exhausted, and everyone participates. For my friends and I, this means hours of cooking together in my kitchen. We all contribute an equal, small amount of money to gather the necessary ingredients, and we all work together to make a communal meal. In my opinion, this is a much more enjoyable and sustainable way to have a holiday.
I can’t take all of the credit for this idea of course, as it is by no means original. My new cooking icon, Samin Nosrat, known for Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, inspired me to have these kinds of meals at my house. I don’t have access to the luxurious grocery store that Samin visits in her Netflix show, but I can shop at my local grocers: supporting their families and building beautiful meals at the same time.
With all of this in mind, I challenge you, if you care about eating good food, if you are sick of supporting giant corporations like Walmart, and if you want to have a great time cooking, go to a local store and buy food from a human being. The money that you hand them goes directly to feeding their family and growing their business. And if you are tired of having holidays that never break the mold, start your own tradition. Eating good food with people you love will never fail to please. Bon Apetit!
I will make the “pulled pork” jackfruit tamale filling again, and hopefully the photos will not be lost to the void. Meanwhile, if you google “jackfruit pulled pork,” you are sure to find several good recipes.
Originally posted on Medium.com