Chow Town

The Tamale Kitchen pop-up is great food for a wonderful cause

What if you could change a community for the better just by buying tamales?

There’s a little more to the story but let’s talk about a little history first. Tamale making is a ritual, a true communal event and has been part of Mexican life for centuries. It has been noted that the tamale originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 BC. Tamales were a portable food and supported armies, hunters and travelers.

My wife and I have always loved tamales and of course authentic Mexican pork chili so a few months ago we began our search in Kansas City looking for the best tamales and chili. One Saturday morning, before my weekly radio show, I came across a notice on Facebook about a lady being involved with tamales here in Kansas City. Her name is Becky Gripp and within hours, she contacted me at my restaurant and we had a wonderful introduction and long conversation, I knew at that time I want to be involved in her project.

Becky started The Tamale Kitchen right here in Kansas City about a year ago. The hard-working women of a predominantly Hispanic congregation couldn’t find jobs that paid a living wage. A priest from a a local Catholic church on the northeast side became frustrated with the situation.

He knew something had to change and an angel appeared. Seriously that’s what Becky Gripp has become known as. Becky, a former corporate trainer and a local business owner teamed up to provide guidance, resources and support — and The Tamale Kitchen, a social enterprise, was born.

Today, six women and one man turn their love for a cultural tradition into great-tasting tamales that generate revenue, create jobs and provide new opportunities for the next generation. In addition to making authentic handmade tamales, the women create, produce and market Spanish language T-shirts. They work with community partners across Kansas City who are committed to making a difference and help to keep costs low.

The Tamale Kitchen is a social enterprise. The Tamale Kitchen is nonprofit initiative. The revenues are reinvested in the women and their families.

And there is more. The Tamale Kitchen is so much more than just selling authentic, hand-made tamales. The Tamale Kitchen was created to invoke images of faith, family, culture and values learned around the proverbial kitchen table.

The Tamale Kitchen is the working definition of the gender dividend. Place money in the hands of women and they make different choices than men, focusing on faith, family and community. The Tamale Kitchen ladies are from northeast Kansas City and worship at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. The church provides its blessing, accounting support and space when needed.

The Tamale Kitchen supports the small local business community of northeast Kansas City, specifically Gringo Loco, and has the has the support of numerous community partners, including Episcopal Community Services, Holy Rosary Credit Union, the Northeast Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

And they count on people like you who just like to eat darn good tamales and support a cause. Every tamale you buy, every t-shirt you order from The Tamale Kitchen ladies helps grow the enterprise — and provide a pathway to self-sufficiency for them, their families and their neighbors.

I told my wife about Becky, and we decided that we had to get involved. So we contacted our good friend Mindy Riley from Olive Tree along with my radio co-host, freelance writer and public relations expert Kimberly Stern and I invited all to coffee and to discuss how we could help this project.

After just a little brainstorming, we came up with the idea of doing a Tamale Kitchen Pop-Up, an event in Kansas City where we can offer the tamales, create awareness in our community and raise funds to help The Tamale Kitchen. Did I mention that the ladies of The Tamale Kitchen will do an ongoing cooking demonstration on the art of tamale making?

Let this be your invitation to The Tamale Kitchen Pop-Up at Olive Tree in Hawthorne Plaza at 119th Street and Roe Boulevard in Overland Park Meet Becky and the ladies of The Tamale Kitchen, watch a tamale cooking demo, enjoy a casual get together and take home some of the most delicious tamales and chili you’ll ever experience.

I hope to see you all there Tuesday. Pre-order your tamales ($24.00 per dozen) and pork chili ($10.00 for a quart) now from Mindy Lindeman Riley at Olive Tree at Hawthorne Plaza by emailing office@olivetreekc.com.

That’s what The Tamale Kitchen is all about. It’s pairing people who have passion and skills in the community with resources and a marketplace that altogether, work toward the common good.

I appreciate your support and remember, to give back when we can is a fabulous feeling. Now let’s go enjoy some tamales together!

Muchas Gracias

Here’s a recipe using some of those The Tamale Kitchen tamales.

Tamale Casserole

6 Tamale Kitchen tamales

12 ounces Mexican salsa

4 ounces can mild green chilies chopped

14.75 ounce can creamed corn

2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese

1/2 cup green onions, minced

1 jalapeño minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove tamales from husks. Add salsa to the bottom of a 10-inch round glass casserole dish. Place tamales in a single layer in the dish. Layer with green chiles. Top with creamed corn, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions and jalapeño.

Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.

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