12:30. Maria Tulia serves her family lunch. Back from the market, Mario sits with his plate on his knees and watches the report of the bicycle tour of Costa Rica. All the international stars are participating and, at the moment, a Guatemalan is in the lead. “Not surprising,” says Mario. “They train in their mountains, and they’re higher than ours!”
Indifferent to their brother’s enthusiasm, the girls quickly wash the dishes. They have work to do this afternoon. Making two hundred tamales is no small order. Jacqueline and Shirley settle down with Roy to watch Donald Duck on television. They practically live at Maria Tulia’s, where the atmosphere is much livelier.
In the shed, Maria Tulia surveys her simmering pots of chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, and spices. A delicious aroma fills the house with the spirit of Christmas, accompanied by holiday songs on the radio. Even serious Grace sings the choruses along with her sisters as she presses the boiled corn through a sieve to make mush. Maria and Maricela lay out the plantain leaves on the table. When everything is cooked, they will spread successive layers of corn paste, meat, rice, and vegetables on each leaf, then tie each packet before placing it in the refrigerator. This season brings many visitors to the house, and no one is allowed to leave without having tasted a tamale. ‘The longer you keep them, the better they get,” claim the girls.