At The Market: Nicaraguan tamales and salsa

TAMALES AND MORE Alba López, left, and her granddaughter Marcella Romero at the McKinleyville Thursday Farmers’ Market. Janine Volkmar | Union

Alba López makes wonderful Nicaraguan tamales. They’re wrapped in banana leaves and the spices are blended into the masa – really different from Mexican tamales.

And she makes homemade salsa and banana bread too.

Stop by her booth at the McKinleyville Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoons to pick up an easy dinner – pork, chicken, or vegan tamales. Buy your salad ingredients at the other booths, some chips from Eureka Natural Foods (the market host) and dinner is all set.

López also has a booth at the Henderson Center Farmers’ Market on Thursday mornings. It’s her first year and folks are loving her tamales.

“The banana leaf gives a special flavor and smell,” López said. “It’s different from the corn husk wrappings. The leaf adds flavor.”

López used to get her banana leaves from the Pueblo market in Eureka but since it has burned down she gets the leaves from San Francisco.

Her salsas are made with ingredients from the other farm vendors.

“The Eureka farmers give me the cilantro,” she said. “They’re nice guys.”

Her salsas are selling well. “People like it because it’s not too spicy, not too mild, it’s right in the middle,” she said.

López said her family came to the United States in 1979. She used to live in San Jose but she came to Humboldt County when her daughter was a student at Humboldt State University. Her daughter has graduated and is off to start her teaching career. She wanted her mother to come with her.

López told her, “You have wings and are ready to fly.”

I asked Lópeza question I often use in interviewing, “What did I forget to ask you?” I use this as a way to make sure I don’t miss something important about the farm or the newest offering or just some good story about the vendor’s food.

López answered my question more deeply.

“It’s important to speak about Nicaragua now,” she said. “We’re losing democracy. People are dying because they are protesting. My heart is sad.”

López is experiencing flashbacks to hard times in the past in Nicaragua. “Some of my family died in the war and we had to seek asylum.”

Time magazine reported that since April “at least 146 people have been killed” in protests. (June 25,2018)  “With roads blocked, universities occupied and many businesses open only a few hours a day, Nicaragua has ground to a halt.”

Arcata has a special relationship with Nicaragua, especially with our 33-year sisterhood with the city of Camoapa. That makes López’s remarks even more poignant and closer to home for many of us.

“We don’t deserve to live in fear. We need to look at ways to seek peace,” she said, “because people deserve to live in peace.”

Thank you, Alba López, for making your food with love and for reminding me of bigger things.



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