The tamale is recorded as early as 5000 BC, possibly 7000 BC in Pre-Columbian history. Initially, women were taken along in battle as army cooks to make the masa for the tortillas and the meats, stews, drinks, etc. As the warring tribes of the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan cultures grew, the demand of readying the nixtamal (corn) itself became so overwhelming a process, a need arose to have a more portable sustaining foods. This requirement demanded the creativity of the women…..hence the tamale was born.
The tamales could be made ahead and packed, to be warmed as needed. They were steamed, grilled on the comal (grill), over the fire, or put directly on top of the coals to warm, or they were eaten cold. We have no record of which culture actually created the tamale but believe that one started and the others soon followed.
Over the millennia, the varieties were minimized to the most common now being red and green chile, chicken, pork, beef, sweet, and cheese. Also changed was the every day occurrence of making the tamales. With the preparation being so labor and time intensive, tamales became a holiday fare, made for special occasions. This tradition remained for thousands of years, with the women of the family working together to make the sauces and meats, preparing the masa, and finally assembling and wrapping the tamales before steaming them in large pots on the stove. The process takes all day, the preparation often starting one or two days in advance. It is virtually unheard of to make a few tamales. In most cases, when they are made, hundreds are made at a time. Everyone, young, old, family and friends, is invited to tamale feasts where they are enjoyed, savored and loved by all.
Delia's was started 29 years ago from very humble beginnings. Needing to provide for her family Delia started making tamales with one of her sisters. They started with 5 pounds of masa and used all of their proceeds to continue making tamales. Each morning they would set out with their freshly cooked tamales in coolers and go door-to-door and business-to-business selling their tamales. After a period of time Delia had built a solid client base and realized that she was out growing her kitchen. She had taken a food that was mainly enjoyed during the holidays to a food that could be enjoyed year round.
In 1998, at the urging of many of her clients, the first Delia's was opened in south McAllen. After solidly establishing the inaugural location, she realized that a second location was desperately needed opening her second store in Pharr in 2003. Shortly there after the Edinburg location was open in 2006. Continued success led to the opening of the 4th and 5th locations in Mission and San Juan in 2008.
Currently all five locations freshly steam their tamales throughout the day for the enjoyment of their clients. Delia still takes an active role in ensuring that all the different types of tamales that they serve are up to the standards that she and her customers have come to expect.