Sunday, July 19, 2009

RAGBRAI and Tamales: Cultural Intersections in SW Iowa

RAGBRAI is a terrific week-long party across the state of Iowa.  The acronym is the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, and it's been going on for nearly 40 years (The Des Moines Register is a paper based in our state's capital).  Riders began at the western coast of the state, touch their wheels in the Missouri River, and ride for a week across the state, ending at the Mississippi River.  Every year the route is different, though some locations have been multiple hosts.  There are serious bicyclists, average Joe/Jane riders, and of course, people who are more interested in beer gardens at night than in the daily rides.

This year, our fair city is the host site for the first night.  Our church and the Southwest Iowa Latino Resource Center partnered to make a unique meal for riders - tamales, rice and beans, with horchata, lemonade, iced tea and water to drink.  Have you ever made homemade tamales?  We started our prep work at 6pm last night, finally going home at about 11....and when I got up at 6:45 to walk the dogs this morning, there was already a crew at the church, hard at work.  By the time I got to the church and got myself ready for worship, they had already made a few hundred tamales.  I got in on the act for a bit before church, but mostly helped after the service.  Several women from our congregation (Anglo) and several women from the Latino Center (Latino - mostly from Mexico) worked all morning making amazing tamales (they missed church but it was worth it).  The Mexican women were patient in explaining the process, and we had a great deal of cross-cultural conversation.  I practiced my pretty poor Spanish, but my accent must continue to fool folk, because they kept asking me questions in Spanish.  I wish I knew more Spanish!

I truly never had any idea how hard it was to make tamales.  (Let's just say I'll be happy to pay double what I currently do for the tamales I get from these ladies in the future.)  And we were ready for the state inspector, who gave us the green light (which was good, because she arrived literally 5 minutes before we were going to open our doors).  It was never an insane crowd, but we did steady business for most of the time we were scheduled to be open.  After an initial count of money and bills, between the two organizations we made a nice profit.  More importantly, we strengthened the relationship between our organizations and built more friendships.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and for giving us such great compliments on our food!!!  Please have a safe ride, and come back anytime!

1 comment:

Hannah said...

I wonder if my father-in-law stopped by! He's been riding RAGBRAI almost since the beginning. My husband used to go almost every year (except the 4 years he lived overseas) until the baby arrived. It sounded like everyone was having so much fun in the background.

BTW, I'm learning French by podcast - you could do the same with Spanish!