US & World

Tamales 'Grace' Napolitano table

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano
Kitty Felde/KPCC

In much of Southern California, it’s not Christmas Eve without tamales. A Southland congresswoman makes them an essential part of her holiday tradition.

Food helps make the holidays for Congresswoman Grace Napolitano. Her husband builds Santa’s sleigh on a flatbed truck, but it’s up to the Democrat from Santa Fe Springs to feed about a hundred people who show up at her house at the end of the ride.

There’s hot chocolate, enchiladas, a ham for her husband and of course, tamales. Lots and lots of them.

Napolitano estimates there's perhaps 15 dozen tamales. She admits that she doesn’t make them herself anymore. But she’s choosy about what goes into them. And that includes lard.

"It’s one of my vices," she says. "I try to stay away and I use as little of it as I can, but the flavor is not there without the lard. You need it in the tamales."

None of those nuevo-fangled tamales at the Napolitano house. No raisins, pumpkin puree or barbecued chicken. If it’s not pork, it’s not a tamale.