IF BEHIND EVERY great man is a fantastic woman, then behind the great Tamale Boy are some incredible aunties. Tamales aren't about flash: They lack the strutting peacock presentation of a taco, all seared meats and bright salsas on full display. Tamales are a comfort food produced by abuelas and tias, a demure dish that only reveals its inner magic after being eased out of its plain banana leaf or beige cornhusk wrapping. Factor in that unskilled makers often craft them far too dry, and a tamale becomes easy to pass up in favor of other Mexican favorites.
That changes now. I've long been a fan of Tamale Boy, which started as Mayahuel Catering—a tribute to an Aztec female deity of nourishment and fertility. When white folks couldn't remember the name, they started calling founder Jaime Soltero "tamale boy." A truck was born. For years, Soltero shelled out banana leaf- and cornhusk-encased masa bundles—based on family recipes and hand-assembled by his aunts—at various locations. So when I heard he was putting down roots in Woodlawn (my 'hood!), I was elated. ANDREA DAMEWOOD