The Tamales of Indio

Masa, music, and a joyous seasonal tradition are set to unfold (and fold, too).

EVERY FILLING EVER: Many a foodie out there boasts many an interesting gourmand-y type goal. Some eaters want to try the state food of every state in the nation; some want to each a slice of pizza from every pie palace in a single large city. Both are good goals, but we must doff our hat to those adventurous diners who have a rather epic and eminently flavorful enterprise in mind: Eat a tamale with every type of filling ever. Now, of course, a tamale can pretty much take it all: lobster, cheese, carne asada, chicken, calabacitas, pumpkin, you name it. No, seriously, you name it: Masa and husks make a nearly perfect drawing board for every sort of bite imaginable. But we wouldn't want to say that the masa is merely the delivery system for a tamale's savory or sweet filling. Masa mavens would argue that it is the corny doughy kernel-nice layering that lends the packet-sized food its best character. It's a lovely argument to have, though, and we expect it will go down, in good humor, in Indio over the Dec. 7 and 8 weekend. Why? Why that's the International Tamale Festival, of course.

TAMALES AND BEYOND: Your first step upon arriving in the Coachella Valley in December is to, well, enjoy the Coachella Valley in December. It's a beautiful month, with perfect temps and chilly nights, meaning one thing: time to love on some serious tamales. All sorts are made at the fest, and there's a contest, too. And beyond the trays piled high with husk-laden heaven? Folklorico music, a car show, a tamale-eating contest, and a carnival. Yep, it is hard to stray from tamale consumption once it begins, but this old-school fest -- it's been around for two decades plus two years -- fills up the weekend with family-cute to-dos. Pack some cash for tamale purchasing, but not for admission, though: It's free.

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