Forbes: A Brief History Of Mexico's Love Affair With Corn
To prepare it, ancient cooks invented a process called nixtamalization: corn kernels were soaked in an alkaline solution (such as limewater) and peeled. The result was a softened, easily workable grain, which was ground into a dough called masa. The masa was traditionally stuffed with local vegetables. Although today, it is more commonly associated with ground proteins and cheeses. The final product, wrapped up in a corn husk -- or plantain leaf) -- allowed for a portable and easy-to-consume meal: street food before there were even streets. It’s little wonder that the tamale has stood the test of time, spreading throughout all of Latin America, fracturing into a kaleidoscope of regional varieties.
In the states, New Yorkers can appreciate Mexico's love affair with corn at places such as Factory Tamal on the Lower East Side,
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