Rethinking roast beast

Brother, can you spare a pie for Loaves & Fishes’ Christmas meal?

Brother, can you spare a pie for Loaves & Fishes’ Christmas meal?

Anyone who’s made a holiday dinner recently knows how hard it is to please everyone with one entree. The vegetarian teenagers in your family don’t want to eat turkey or ham, but your great uncle Fred insists a meal isn’t a meal if there’s no meat in it! If you encounter this dilemma every December, it’s time to ditch the heavy roasts and borrow a tradition from Mexico. In many parts of that country, tamales are the centerpiece of feasts on special occasions.

A tamale can be filled with meat or cheese or vegetables, to satisfy any diet. The warm corn husks filled with steaming masa are perfect for winter nights. Plus, the whole family can share in the process of assembling them, which provides way more opportunity for connection than watching a bird sweat in the oven.

For hands-on instruction in the art of tamale making, turn to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Instructor Bernadette Gutierrez will lead a class in making three kinds of tamales: pork, chicken, and roasted chili and cheese. Best of all, every participant will get to eat tamales in class and take some home. “Authentic Tamales!” happens on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The cost is $40, or $30 for co-op members. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is located at 1914 Alhambra Boulevard. Call (916) 455-2667 to reserve a space.

And once your dinner plans are set, make a donation to someone else’s. Loaves & Fishes needs canned hams, cooked pies, aerosol whipped cream, apple juice and canned yams for its annual Christmas dinner. These can be delivered to the Loaves & Fishes warehouse, located at 1321 North C Street, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekends through December 24. Monetary donations to provide services year-round also are welcome. Call (916) 446-0874 or visit for info.