How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: Masa in Pico Union (and all over town)

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Bags of masa harina on the shelf at a small grocery store in Pico Union, waiting to be mixed and eaten

Hurry, it's time! Time to shop for ingredients for last-minute tamaleadas, time to pick up those orders if you're ordering them, time to read (or not) the annual onslaught of tamales-related holiday stories that crop up in the media this time of year.

But I'm not above a little gratuitous masa harina shot. There are tamal purists who scoff at the use of masa harina, preferring to grind their own corn ("It tastes like tamales you'd buy at 7-11," a corn-grinding friend snapped once when I admitted using it), but who has time? Plus once it's mixed and ready to steam, it tastes kind of good raw. Buen provecho, tamal makers and eaters.

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