Kevin and I went to see Chicago last night, so we were bad bloggers and didn’t have time to post. Fear not, dear readers, we have an extra-special recipe of Tamale Pie for you today from Recipes from the St. Anthony Community Hospital Guild Pocatello, Idaho, published in 1971. So, thank you Ruth A. Bogert for giving us the wildest version of Tamale Pie I’ve ever seen!!
First of all, I love that each recipe in this cookbook is handwritten by the members of the Hospital Guild. Secondly, as I mentioned above, Ruth’s recipe is not your run-of-the mill Tamale Pie! First of all, she includes four different types of protein instead of just the usual two. Ruth adds veal and smoked ham into the protein mix, which gives an added flavor boost to the dish. She also adds a can of stuffed olives instead of the much-loved black olives. I’m assuming the type of olives Ruth had in mind would be pimento-stuffed olives, which would give her Tamale Pie some added spice.
Finally, Ruth’s recipe highlights something that Kevin and I have been noticing in a few recipes we’ve found: instead of layering the protein and cornmeal, this recipe mixes everything together, creating a meat-loaf of sorts. My grandmother’s recipe for Tamale Pie (which she used when she worked as a lunch lady at the local school district) is also of this variety. I’m not sure when this type of Tamale Pie started, but it makes the recipe easier and it also makes the dish accessible to more cooks since it resembles more common dishes like meat-loaf.
In my quest to research Tamale Pie for you, dear readers, I tracked down another recipe that was included in a book called Our Country’s Call to Service: A Manual of Patriotic Activities Through the Schools, published in 1918. (The entire book is freely available here!) I bet you didn’t know that Tamale Pie was patriotic, did you? The recipe is featured in a section called “Saving Food,” where wives are tasked to conserve supplies during wartime. The cookbook includes the following illustration just pages before the recipe for Tamale Pie.
Tamale Pie is included in a section on Meat Pies called “Meat Saving Recipes” that “make a little meat go a long way” in an attempt to conserve food during World War I.
As you can see, the above version of Tamale Pie distills the recipe to its most basic ingredients in order conserve as much money and food as possible. Unlike many of the later versions of Tamale Pie, this early version is made without expensive dairy products.
Can I go an entire week just posting about Tamale Pie? SHOULD I post about Tamale Pie for an entire week? Probably not, but I’m going to try!
Today’s example of Tamale Pie comes from Sunset’s Kitchen Cabinet Recipes, vol. 3 from 1944. And it’s not just any old Tamale Pie recipe, it’s a vegetarian version, complete with an illustrated guide! Although I have to say that my commenter, Dushenka, is right — I would definitely add beans to the mix as well!
This week, A Bit of Butter is dedicated to the Tamale Pie! Below, I’ve included some standard versions of Tamale Pie from vintage cook books and recipe cards. In searching for recipes, I kept a pretty strict definition for what Tamale Pie should include: mainly, a cornmeal crust. There are other taco casseroles that call themselves Tamale Pie (and I’ll probably post a few of these later in the week), but for now, here are a few standard recipes for this long-lived casserole.
I have to hand it to Tamale Pie, it’s been around an awfully long time, and aimed to give home-cooks a convenient method for making tamales without numerous steps. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink lists the Capitol Cookbook from 1899 as the first to include a recipe for Tamale Pie, but this one has a wheat-flour crust instead of the ubiquitous corn meal that most Tamale Pies use. The earliest version that uses cornmeal, is a recipe from the Los Angeles Times Cook Book, No. 2, published in 1905, which features “old-time California, Spanish and Mexican dishes”. In the American Century Cookbook, Jean Anderson writes that Tamale Pie gained popularity during World War I as a vegetarian main dish (148). But it wasn’t until the second World War when recipes for Tamale Pie exploded into a full-blown trend.
Like the recipe found in the L.A. Times, Sunset’s Kitchen Cabinet Recipes, vol. 3 (pictured above), published in 1944, uses both ground pork and beef for protein, which gives the dish a more complex flavor profile. It also takes the recipe farther away from the standard tamale by adding corn kernels, tomato, and other ingredients.