Tales of HICA Tamale Sales, Partnerships and Missing Fingerprints

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This is a promo photo I took before HICA Exec Director Isabel Rubio and I appeared on Fox 6 News in Birmingham to talk about the tamale sale.

To pick up from my last post and how the HICA tamale sale got started…here are a few memories and stories from the early years.

As the HICA tamale sale began to grow, the search for community partners began.  We needed kitchen space where we could make more tamales since we had outgrown the kitchen at Grace Episcopal Church.  Word was out about tamales so demand began to grow!  In 2005, HICA partnered with The Culinard and we were able to use their facilities to make tamales.  We had a successful year despite scorching a rather large pot of pepper tamales!  That just about broke my heart because I LOVE pepper tamales!!!

The next year – 2006 – we got really aggressive with our media.  I got a call from the Birmingham News one day asking if a reporter could come by my house and watch me make tamales.  It was a great opportunity to get the word out about the sale so of course, I said yes!  I immediately called my mom and we pulled together all the ingredients and got everything ready.  Now when you make tamales, you usually make a “ton” because they are so labor intensive.  In fact, in many families tamales are made in an assembly line fashion – as many as 60 dozen at a time!  So mom and I got to work to get things in order for the demonstration.

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This is a print of one of the articles that appeared in the Birmingham News about the tamale sale. The picture is of me in my kitchen loading tamales my mom and I made into my tamale pot to cook. Photo was taken by Bev Taylor of The Birmingham News. My husband framed this article for me as a Christmas present and it hangs in my kitchen.

Kellie Hewitt-Taylor of The Birmingham News was supposed to come to my house to interview me and take photos.  Instead she interviewed me over the phone due to a family emergency and sent photographer Bev Taylor to come by and take pictures.  Kellie said the story would run in the Wednesday Hoover Neighborhood section of the news.  Isabel Rubio, HICA’s executive director, and I were excited about getting this exposure figuring it would help boost sales a bit from the previous year.  Well, be careful what you wish for…

I picked up the Wednesday paper and found a small black and white photo of myself filling my tamale pot with tamales on page 2 or 3.  I thought – “this is nice!  I’m sure this will help sales…”  When I got to work, a co-worker called and said, “Hey!  I saw your picture in the newspaper today!”  I knew she didn’t live in Hoover so I was a little puzzled as she went on and on about the great color photo of me.  I was thinking – wait…the picture was in black and white!  Now I was REALLY confused!

Turns out the story now only hit the Hoover neighborhood section that day, it hit ALL of the neighborhood section in Birmingham! WHOA!  Our sales that year jumped to over 6K and we weren’t prepared for that.  But it gave us an opportunity to partner with some local Mexican restaurants to help fill the gaps in addition to what our volunteers were making.

Freddy Rubio works the tamale numbers on tamale pick up day to make sure HICA stays up to speed with the orders and the restaurants partnering with us to provide tamales.

Freddy Rubio works the tamale numbers on tamale pick up day to make sure HICA stays up to speed with the orders and the restaurants partnering with us to provide tamales.

For tamale pick up day that year I just remember the tamales coming into the HICA office in a steady stream.  All of us there volunteering that day spent a lot of time wrapping these piping hot tamales with Saran wrap and foil and labeling them by type.  I swear to you…I think my fingerprints burned off that day!  At the end of that day we were exhausted but thrilled at the success of the sale.  I know I was SO ready for a margarita!!!  Surprisingly, I also wanted a tamale!

Pork tamales wait their turn to get saran wrapped and foil wrapped for pick up.

Pork tamales wait their turn to get saran wrapped and foil wrapped for pick up.

The HICA tamale sale PRE-SALE has been extended until August 31st.  So, if you are in the Birmingham area, you can place your order online until that date.  Place your order today and when you come to HICA to pick up your order on December 18, let me know if you read about the tamale sale on my blog!

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Orders wait to be picked up. This is also a great time for HICA to tell their story to the community so we provide our latest newsletter and brochures of information about programs the tamale sale supports.

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A volunteer helps wrap the piping hot tamales with saran wrap – these are tamales that have come straight from one of the partner restaurants. The aroma that day of delivery was heavenly to say the least!!!

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This was also the first year HICA rented freezers to store tamales for pick up day. In this picture, volunteers load the freezers with freshly wrapped tamales awaiting pick up.

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