December 11, 2004 - Some were short and fat, others skinny and long. They were hot, they were spicy, they were sweet. Some were even colored pink.
Twenty-three tamales, made at home by 23 housekeeping staff members at Scottsdale Plaza Resort, faced off Friday afternoon in the 2004 Tamale Queen contest.
The annual event brought together workers in housekeeping, upper management staff members and local celebrities for spicy food, lively Hispanic music, pinatas, a gift exchange — and endless trays of tamales.
Refugio Urquidez of Phoenix was crowned this year’s queen for her tamales. She beamed while being crowned by 2003 tamale queen Mirelle Dominguez of Phoenix.
Urquidez’s tamales contained her traditional family recipe, she said.
"I put in lard, garbanzo beans, green chili, potatoes and green olives," she said in Spanish as Dominguez translated.
Seven judges sampled the tamales and rated them on presentation, taste and spiciness.
"The one with the green olives in them, I like those most," said judge Valory Rowan, conference services director at the resort, as she dug her fork into tamales numbered 10, 11 and 12. "Others have a lot of kick, and I like that!"
Jose Cardenas of Univision cable television, who was master of ceremonies and a judge, said he was surprised by new ingredients used by the contenders.
"I just tasted a tamale for the first time in my life with Tabasco sauce," he said. "I love it. And another one had garbanzo beans in it."
The Tamale Queen contest originated eight years ago at Christmastime, when housekeeping staff members began making tamales as gifts for their supervisors. The tamales varied in size, taste and look and were based on family recipes from different regions of Mexico.
It evolved into a competition as the women tried to outdo each other by making the best tamales, said resort spokeswoman Christine Pond.
Dominguez’s sister, Victoria Rodriguez, competed against her prize-winning sister this year using potato, squash, green olives, beef and red chili to fill her tamales.
"They take a long time to make," Rodriguez said. "I cooked from 8 o’clock (a.m.) to 4 o’clock (p.m.) yesterday and made 150 tamales."