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Tamale orders fly in at La Popular, but the food is still handmade.EXPAND
Tamale orders fly in at La Popular, but the food is still handmade.
La Popular

Jon Daniel Is Eating 12 Hours of Tamales for Charity This Saturday

For the past two years, Oak Cliff resident Jon Daniel has partnered with nonprofit Foundation 45 to raise funds via 24 Hours of Tacos, an extravaganza of taco eating and awareness raising for the charity's goal of helping creative artists receive quality mental health care.

Now, Daniel is changing things up with a special Christmas-themed edition of the event: This Saturday, he will visit 24 tamale restaurants in 12 hours.

"We wanted to do something because this is an important time of year," Daniel says. "Every year I see on social media people who are selling tamales because their family is making them; it's a nice little side business that a lot of people have. And then also there's always a lot of questions about where to get them."

The tamale event will build on the success of two years of fundraising via tacos. Daniel is already looking ahead to the future needs of Foundation 45 and the Jordan Daniel Fund, which sponsors substance abuse recovery programs and is named after Daniel's late son.

"The $16,000 that we raised during the two 24 Hours of Tacos funded a full-time, yearlong fund, This is for Jordan: Remix Recovery," Daniel explains. "It's four 12-week substance abuse-focused programs for 10 to 15 people, run by a licensed-professional counselor who is a Ph.D. student. We're in the last few weeks of the second session. The first session, I think 12 people signed up and the outcome was really good. Some people were more triaged and needed a lot more intensive help, so they were provided with some options in terms of inpatient or detox. Some people got sober, are sober, and some people are on the road to sobriety.

"My goal is I need to raise more to ensure that this program is ongoing. If I can do enough money here and in conjunction with Taco Libre, that should fund it for another year."

The meals on his itinerary range from Tommy Tamale Market in Grapevine to La Popular Tamale House in East Dallas, along with a half-dozen spots in Oak Cliff, a couple of farmers market stalls and chains such as El Fenix. Daniel will sample classic Tex-Mex tamales, Veracruzan banana leaf parcels and, well, anything else the city has to offer.

"One of the things that was really great about 24 Hours of Tacos was that it provided people resources to look at a long list of taquerias that maybe they drove by, or didn't know were there or didn't feel comfortable going, and there's some really great places," Daniel says. "I'm hoping that the 12 Hours of Tamales will show people that there's lots of different choices."

Aside from helping to continue Foundation 45's recovery courses, Daniel's culinary goal is idealistic, too. He doesn't want to determine which tamale in town is the best and disparage the rest. He says he is celebrating Dallas' wealth of tamale tradition and, as he calls it, "food that has meaning."

There's another way 12 Hours of Tamales can help.

"I think I might reach out to the North Texas Food Bank or someone like that, because most places sell them as six or 12," Daniel says. "I might have a few bites, but what that means is that I'm going to end up with 100 tamales from various places. So what I think I'm going to do is bring a cooler and plastic bags, and at the end of the run, I'll donate them all to a food bank or a homeless shelter."

Next year's 24 Hours of Tacos will take place the weekend before the Taco Libre festival.

Click here to find out how to donate to the 12 Hours of Tamales drive for Foundation 45 and the Jordan Daniel fund.

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