Life & Culture

Thanksgiving, South Texas-Style — and Elsewhere

Senior Planet San Antonio always brings a unique South Texas flair to all its programs – celebrating loved ones with Day of the Dead events, or hosting virtual cooking classes to learn the regional recipes passed down through generations.  During Thanksgiving, members and staff alike enjoy the tradition of eating tamales at Thanksgiving.  DeAnne Cuellar, State Director of OATS and Senior Planet San Antonio, explains the tradition of this distinctive side dish:

“Eating tamales is one of South Texas traditions centered on food – from capirotada (AKA bread pudding – here’s a recipe!), to a large crock pot of bubbly Queso (recipe here), to a big steaming bowl of pozole (learn more here)- Thanksgiving in Texas is full of seasonal dishes! But how did tamales (at left) end up on every table for this holiday? And, how do you convince your friend’s abuela for a tamale hookup? I asked my own friends and family on Facebook for some answers. Close to 50 comments were shared with me, and this is what I learned:”

It’s a Family thing…

Because my grandmother told me to.”

-Erika Prosper, First Lady of San Antonio

“It’s a family tradition. Families usually gather during the holidays. Making tamales is a tradition that brings the family together to cook and teaches the recipes to future generations.

Fernanda Cardenas, UnitedHealthcare

“Making tamales is labor-intensive, so maybe best to prepare them when families and friends are invited over for a day or more?”

-Emma Hernandez, San Antonio Public Library’s Latino Resource Center

…and a Financial Thing

“Pig slaughtering for the Christmas meal was before Christmas. The good meat was used by the owners, the fatty and odds and ends things were chopped up and became tamales. Like fajitas, the beef skirt was a lower quality meat so it was cheap. The working class learned to marinate, grill, cut it across the grain and  – poof! – the working class was eating great tacos. Of course, it became a “thing“ and now fajita meat cost as much as other meats!”

-Dee Sanchez, Community Activist 

“So we can have something to unwrap on Xmas eve. Well, that’s what my Uncle Louie used to say.”

-Maria Salazar, Community Activist 

If you want to learn how to make tamales – maybe even host your own tamalada – tamale-making party – there’s a recipe and a video here.

What Side are You On? 

What other side dishes go great with turkey?  According to this survey, it depends what state you ask  – apparently the rest of Texas and other Southwest states like Green Bean Casserole and the Southeast Atlantic states must have Mac and Cheese.

But how about you? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?  Take our poll and let us know in the comments!

What's your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

Tamale photo: Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Turkey photo:  🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash


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