For This Alabama Food Truck, Tamales Are a Family Affair
For many Latin American families, says Yesenia Stark, tamales are associated with the holidays. At Teresita's Tamales, her family's food truck in Madison, Alabama, it feels a bit like Christmas year-round.
"Usually, tamales are made during the Christmas season," says Stark, whose family emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. in 1995. "That's one of our favorite times of year. Our family comes from out of town and all us ladies get around the table and make tamales and that's a tradition that we have … But usually the rest of the year, you don't see many people [making or] selling tamales because it is such a long, laborious process."
Stark and her sister Jessica Sanchez co-own the food truck, which is named for their mother, Teresita, who makes all the tamales from scratch and by hand. It's a true family affair, says Stark, and a tradition that began years before they opened their food truck for business in May 2021. Throughout the sisters' middle and high school years, their father would sell his elote (Mexican street corn) and their mother's tamales from a van on Friday and Saturday nights to make ends meet. "Every Thursday when we would get home from school, we knew it was time to make tamales," says Stark.
Just as when she and her sister were young, prep for the food truck's tamales starts the day before, she says, when they begin cooking the chicken and pork, which takes about 6 hours. They soak the corn husks overnight for easier wrapping the next day; and once the meat is cooked, the sisters hand-shred it. An additional three hours is spent making the masa (the corn dough that holds the tamale filling), and only then can the tamale-wrapping begin.
"We are a food truck, and we try to get your food out as fast as we can, but we aren't fast food," explains Stark.
It's a labor of love that has won Teresita's Tamales plenty of loyal customers, she says, including a woman who bought them from their family long before they owned the food truck. "She will come probably every other week or so… and she will get four to seven dozen tamales," says Stark with a laugh. "I'm like, 'What are you doing with all of them?' … [The woman] goes out of town a lot, so she says, 'Wherever I go, I take tamales with me.'"
In addition to serving tamales, the truck also serves agua fresca, a drink that blends fresh fruit with water, and their father's elote. "This has been a long time coming," says Stark. "My mom and my dad have really worked hard for this."