Buy holiday tamales in metro Phoenix at these 5 family restaurants

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‘Tis the season — tamales season that is.

The tamal is a glorious thing, an ancient food with hundreds of varieties and enjoyed for multiple millennia since it was first eaten in Mesoamerica. While there is some debate over whether tamal or tamale should be used for the singular form of tamales, both come from the Nahuatl word tamalli, which refers to cornmeal cakes that are cooked and served in a corn husk wrapping.

These days, the most popular time for making and sharing tamales is during the holidays, from Thanksgiving through Día de los Reyes in January. Tamaladas — a gathering to make tamales — has become an annual tradition in many Mexican American households as an assembly line of friends and family work together to make edible labors of love.

If you don’t have time for a tamalada this year, you can also purchase your Christmas tamales from family-run businesses around metro Phoenix.

Here are five local spots to order your holiday tamales:

La Fama Mexican Food and Bakery

This long-standing bakery has served the West Valley for more than 45 years. Obdulio Marquez, a former mariachi performer from Zacatecas, opened La Fama in 1974. He was involved with the shop until his death in 2011 and since then his daughters have kept the family business going strong.

Lourdes Marquez Adame told The Republic in 2019 that the Christmas Eves of her childhood were spent piling into the family van early morning to drive from south Phoenix to Glendale, where it was all hands on deck to supply the lines of people buying last-minute tamales. Typically, from November to December, La Fama makes anywhere from 40 to 70 dozen tamales a day.

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