Archive for November, 2008

Hot Tamales! California celebrates the history of a steamy favorite

Monday, November 24th, 2008


Photo by Phil Gold — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The International Tamale Festival originated in 1992, when Dave Hernandez, a former member of the Downtown Indio Merchants Association, decided that the delectable history of the tamale was good enough to share.

Named for the Spanish word for “Indian”, Indio is located halfway between Los Angeles and Yuma, Arizona. An important agricultural region, Indio is known for its citrus groves, date growers, vegetable fields, and of course, its tamales.

The tamale is a traditional indigenous American staple made from steam-cooked corn dough made from masa, a hominy. The dough is traditionally filled with either a sweet filling, such as fruit, or a savory mixtures of meats, cheeses and chilies. The masa is wrapped in plant leaves or corn husks and steamed until firm. Although it takes a lot of time and love to prepare a tamale, it doesn’t take a lot of time to gobble them up. Portable, tactilely pleasing and terrifically palatable, this is one finger food with a tasty past.

The International Tamale Festival always takes place on the first weekend in December (December 6th and 7th, this year) and the entrance is free. In addition to a host of renowned tamale makers from the community, the festival is kicked off with a colorful parade, followed by carnival rides, Folklorico Dancing, live music, and a tamale eating contest. The Tamale Festival has earned two different mentions in the Guinness Book of World Records: The World’s largest Tamale-over 1 foot in diameter and 40 feet in length, (Dec. 4, 1999) and The World’s largest tamale festival (120,000 in attendance, Dec. 2-3, 2000).

The International Tamale Festival was recently included as one of the top ten “All American Food Festivals” in the US by the Food Network.

Indio is also the home to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, cited by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the most beautiful festival sites in the world. Click here to learn more about delectable festivals in California.

Update: Would you like to know who took top tamale honors in this year’s festival? Find out more in this article from The Desert Sun.

- Courtney Maum

The Turkey Testicle Festival of Byron, Illinois. “Have yourself a ball.”

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Testicle Festival

Photo by iluvcocacola — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

It’s Turkey time in America. Perhaps you already have one picked out for your Thanksgiving throwdown, or maybe you’re going to try something more elegant this year, such as Turducken. Or maybe you don’t buy into the idea that a bunch of white guys in tights sat down and broke bread with a slew of Indians in loin cloths and you’re skipping the cockamamie holiday all together. If you make up part of this latter group of non-enthusiasts, but you still kinda like turkey — then you should get yourself down to Byron, Illinois for their annual Turkey Testicle Festival where you can, literally, have yourself a ball.

The first Turkey Testicle Festival was held in 1978, at a time when the host town had only one stop light. Now they have two. The Turkey Testicle Festival is one of those rare occasions that makes you realize that there are a whole lot of things you never think about. Whether this is because you are an ignoramus or because you’ve never considered the reproductive cycle of turkeys isn’t any of our business. This festival is important because it begs an age-old question. Turkeys have… balls? And yes — yes they do. They carry them in their chest cavity right near the gizzards. Around mid-October, turkeys are castrated so that they’ll be juicy and overweight in time for Thanksgiving. The Turkey Testicle Festival is always held on the second weekend in October in order to take advantage of the surplus of testicles available at this time.

For a reason that was not made clear on the Festival’s website, you have to be 21 to participate in the testicular fun. Whether this is because of the presence of alcohol, the sophisticated line-up of live music (“Grumpy Ole Men” and “Gulane and the Giddyups” make regular appearances) or because you need to have fully developed testicles in order to eat them — again, we do not know. What we do know is that the festival costs $5, there are raffles, karaoke, cold beer and lots of side-events for charity, and that like most things in life, when you bread and deep-fry a turkey testicle, it tastes like chicken.

For love of dry white meat, don’t miss out on the Festival’s Theme Song.

Learn more about other great festivals in Illinois.

- Courtney Maum

“You kill it. We Grill it.” The West Virginia Roadkill Cookoff

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Roadkill Cafe Sign

Photo by Terence Faircloth — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

In 1998, the state of West Virginia reinvented the concept of take-away when they legalized the removal of roadkill by civilians for culinary purposes. This is finders-keepers lawmaking: you could grill it whether or not you killed it, as long as you reported the removal within 12 hours.

The good folks of Marlington, West Virginia didn’t need a law to legitimize a century-old practice, but they did need a little bit of tourism. Knowing nothing gets the cash a flowin’ like stewed blood with moose balls, The Annual Roadkill Cookoff was born.

Held in conjunction with the Autumn Harvest Festival, the Roadkill Cookoff celebrates the culinary worth of the unlucky mammals that frequent our byways. The rules are simple: each participant must make use of meat from an animal commonly found dead on the side of the road, prepare the dish on-site and supply an accompanying recipe for the Roadkill Cookbook. Rubber, gravel and grit must not be present in any of the dishes, and points are deducted for dental injuries resulting from improperly cleaned meat. Although the ingredients can come from actual roadkill, the judges reserve the right not to eat anything that looks putrid or smells like it spent more time on the bumper than it did on the burner. Oh- and if you hit something en route to the cookoff, you can skin it on-site. This is fast food at its finest.

Past entries have included “Bumper Brews Barbequed Bear”, “Deer Smear Fajitas”, “Squirrel Gravy over Biscuits”, and “Stir-tired Possum with Natural Brown Maggots”. The winning chef takes home a cash prize, inclusion on PETA’s Most Wanted List, and the fervent respect of the Marlington natives that share the road with him.

The Autumn Harvest Festival is held yearly in September. For more information, visit the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce.

Read more about other great festivals in West Virginia.

- Courtney Maum