Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Surprise sidewalk tamales

There's a woman I occasionally see on my way home, coming down from the 36th Avenue train station on the northeast side. She stands in the shadow of Food World supermarket, around the corner from its entrance and close to the bottom of the subway steps.
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Whenever I manage to catch her, maybe once a month or so, I walk right up to her and she looks at me with a face that says she's not sure I know what's she's there for. But once I point and say, "Tamales?" she breaks out into a smile and cracks open the lid of her cooler, revealing the dozens of tamales stacked within, neatly wrapped in foil and somehow always piping hot. I always get two: one for my dinner, and then another to bring for lunch the next day (or to eat for breakfast, if I'm in the mood). Sometimes the savory cornmeal dough hides pork in a spicy green sauce, other times chicken in a milder red sauce, and once the tamales were filled with cheese and long green chiles. Whichever version they are, all are fresh and flavorful. I don't know the woman's schedule, or if she even has one, but I'm always happy to see her standing at the bottom of the steps.

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