Moms, Memories and Hot Tamales

Memories and foods! They have such a powerful connection -- a connection that can lead to all kinds of emotions.  And, sometimes they show up when you least expect it.

Last fall I attended a food writing workshop led by Dianne Jacob and Demet Guzey.  As we gathered for a writing session outdoors under the beautiful fall Italian skies, Dianne tossed a box of candy on the table.  Hot Tamales – you know, the fiery cinnamon chewy kind in the yellow and red box.  She gave us a 20 minute timeframe to write and asked the question, “What memory does the Hot Tamale evoke”?

I thought…geez…that’s not a very exciting food topic….cheap, chewy, cinnamon loaded candies.  But then the memories started to come….and the path led straight to my Mother’s hand and deep into my heart as I began to write….



She is waiting as I open the door. She greets me with a smile and holds out the palm of her hand. I thrash about in my muslin bag as my hand grabs a smooth flat paper box. I shake the box to hear the candies rattle and separate. Hurriedly, I tear off the end as she she tilts her head and watches my every move.

Her hands cupped....waiting as the cinnnamon-y aroma fills the air.

She is waiting and remembering....of maybe a time when she was on the other side of the box while hungry, eager little childhood eyes gazed up at her with cupped hands...waiting as she drops the tiny little red dots into her child's hand.

As I pour the hot tamales into her hand, she rubs the smooth candy then eats only one. Then she invites me to join her. She doesn't like to eat alone, nor does she think it proper to eat in front of others without inviting them to share. So, I fill my hand and pour the remaining long smooth red candies in her candy bowl....a candy bowl that only ever holds the long cylinder red candies.

As we sit and slowly let the candies melt away, we enjoy the taste of sweet fire. A sense of comfort fills the room and without words being spoken, gratitude is shared from a mother to a daughter...she is saying to me without words...thank you for bringing a little bit of home to me today.

I gently kiss her good bye, gently closing the door behind me as she blows me a kiss and I see in her eyes she knows I'll come again soon with the flat paper box, filled with the sweet fire candies. And she will be waiting.


My Mom is very frail now and will soon be 97 years of age.  She still has her fiery spirit but can no longer can eat those fiery candies. And, when I open the door to her room, she is still waiting….not for the candies….but waiting for what matters….sharing time with family….sharing unspoken moments…. sharing life.  So, back to my initial reaction to that silly box of candy Dianne threw upon the table; foods we share make life moments….create memories….and they don't have to be fancy.  This Mother’s Day, whether you’re being celebrated or you’re celebrating someone else, share what matters. It will stand the test of time. 

from my table to yours,