Echo Park tamale makers working overtime

The Mejia family has spent the past week working 15 hours a day wrapping. Not gifts. Tamales.  The Mejia’s Tamales Alberto will have cooked up an estimated 20,000 tamales in the last eight days to meet holiday demand, said Jorge Mejia, whose father, Alberto, opened the Temple Street tamale shop about a decade ago. Customers live around the block but many of the tamales – the most popular variety is chicken and green chile – are purchased by markets and bakeries in places like La Crescenta, Pasadena and Echo Park (we won’t name any names). This morning, 10 workers squeezed into Alberto’s kitchen located the southern edge of Echo Park. The entire family – including Alberto Mejia’s three sons, daughters-in-law and cousins – have been drafted to deal with the holiday rush.

Once they close up shop tonight at 6 p.m., the family will gather for a Christmas Eve dinner. The food will be Mexican but tamales won’t be on the menu, Jorge Mejia said.  “We dream tamales in our sleep.”

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