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Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Road Trip

Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Road Trip
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  • Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Road Trip

    Post #1 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:12 pm
    Post #1 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:12 pm Post #1 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:12 pm
    I would have never thought that a road trip based primarily on the search for a decent Mississippi hot tamale would ever make much sense. BBQ, sure…pizza, definitely. I’ve always enjoyed Chicago’s idea of a tamale just fine; a large, gritty, dried-out, delectable treat that would often times accompany my red hot as a youngin’ (w/ketchup and raw onions, of course).
    I never really thought that one could get all jazzed up over a tamale until I saw the joy, elation really, when Rene G discovered what seemed to him to be the first ever Mississippi Delta tamale here in Chicago. Sorta like a scientist doing research in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea and spotting some unknown species of arachnoid.

    After trying the Mississippi hot tamales at Jay’s Food Mart, an oily, mushy, corn-husked delight, I was curious as to what, if any, connections this thing had to the coarser, drier versions I’d been enjoying here. Looking into the details, I found the hot tamales’ history and intrinsic differences from its Hispanic cousins alluring. Although there are no concrete or definitive answers as to how the Mississippi hot tamale made its way into the local diet, I found even the speculation about its origins intriguing.

    John T. Edge, Director of The Southern Foodways Alliance (who wrote his master’s thesis on the Mississippi hot tamale), speculates,

    “Two laborers sit side by side in a cotton field, unpacking their lunch pails. One, an African American, has a sweet potato, a slice of cornbread and a hunk of side meat. Though they were hot when he packed them at sunup, by lunchtime they're cool, almost cold. The Hispanic laborer unpacks a similar pail -- probably a lard bucket lined with crumpled newspapers -- but his lunch emerges from the bucket still warm, because tamales, packed tightly, have wonderful heat-retention qualities.”

    Others theorize that the hot tamale made its way up to Mississippi sometime in the 1840s when local soldiers returned from the Mexican-American war. Still others postulate that since maize has been grown in the area for hundreds if not thousands of years by local native Americans, this style of hot tamale is basically an indigenous creation.
    Whatever the case, the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Tamale Trail” project provides a wealth of information about them and is a highly entertaining read.

    Some of the basic characteristics of the typical Mississippi Delta hot tamale are:

    1) Cornmeal is more commonly used instead of masa, which is the norm for most Mexican varieties of tamales.
    2) Beef is commonly used as well as pork (sometimes combined) for their fillings. A few even use turkey.
    3) They are usually wrapped in cornhusks. Some of the cheaper efforts, however, are simply wrapped in parchment paper.
    4) They are then boiled in a spicy broth instead of steamed like their kin made in more southerly environs.
    5) Mississippi hot tamales are smaller than their Latin American counterparts and are usually served with a bit of the spiced broth from the boil.
    6) Their meat filling can either be spiced or plain. It can also be either boiled or browned.

    After eating the Jay's version here and learning a bit more about them afterwards, a summer road trip down to Ole Miss now seemed to make complete sense.
    So, with the foremost authority on the mother-in-law slash investigator of southside culinary oddities in tow, we headed down to the Mississippi delta region to see for ourselves firsthand the vibrancy and delectability of the fabled hot tamale.

    By the way, if you order a “tamale” down south, they’ll courteously and consistently correct you by saying “HOT tamale”.

    The following pictures were all taken in four Mississippi delta towns: Clarksdale, Greenwood, Leland, and what appears to the aorta of the Mississippi hot tamale culture, Greenville.

    Image Image Image Image Image Image
    Hot tamales here can be found in weekend-only roadside shacks (with or without a drive-thru window), mobile trucks and food carts, stand alone carts at entrances to grocery stores, and sit down restaurants.
    (From left to right: Scott's Hot Tamales (Greenville), Unknown hot tamale shack (Greenville), Hot Tamale Heaven drive-thru (Greenville), Bing’s County Market cart (Greenville), Hick’s drive-thru (Clarksdale), Hick’s hot tamale truck (Clarksdale))


    Hot tamales are usually hand-wrapped in cornhusks and then tied into a six-pack bundle.
    ImageImage
    Crystal Grill (Greenwood, MS)


    Another variation that you’ll periodically come across there is the fried hot tamale.
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    The Bourbon Mall's (Leland, MS) fried hot tamale was my favorite throughout this trip. Besides being perfectly fried and almost entirely greaseless, the tamale's filling was the meatiest as well as tastiest. Surprisingly, its carb-on-top-of-carb nature didn't bother me in the least. I liked the added touch of serving ranch dressing on the side—elegant.

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    (Picture courtesy of Rene G)
    Probably the most famous of all hot tamale-serving establishments is the original Doe's Eat Place in Greenville. Note how they use parchment paper instead of cornhusks.

    After trying no less than 9 different versions of Mississippi hot tamales, whether it was from a more well-known place like Doe’s Eat Place or something that was made in the back of a donut shop, most fell into a similar range of enjoyability. As far as I could surmise, the biggest variable was what time of day you ate them. I noticed that the hot tamales we ate later in the day usually seemed to be mushier/creamier unlike those consumed earlier that had more structure to its character. This was most likely due to them sitting in the spiced broth all day. The other noticeable difference between hot tamales was the overall spicing used in their broth. Varying levels of chile spice as well as other ingredients such as clove, garlic, or cumin were discernible.

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    Abandoned old hot tamale cart found at the now defunct Hot Tamale Heaven factory.


    Hicks' Famous Hot Tamales
    305 South State Street/HWY 61
    Clarksdale, MS
    (662) 624-9887

    Crystal Grill
    423 Carrollton Ave
    Greenwood, MS
    (662) 453-6530

    The Bourbon Mall
    105 Dean Road
    Leland, MS
    (662) 686-4389

    Hot Tamale Heaven
    1640 Highway 82 E
    Greenville, MS
    (662) 378-2240

    Bings County Market (cart)
    595 Highway 1 N
    Greenville, MS

    Scott’s Hot Tamales (shack)
    304 Martin Luther King Blvd.
    Greenville, MS 38703
    (662) 332-4013
    Last edited by PIGMON on November 30th, 2009, 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:27 pm
    Post #2 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:27 pm Post #2 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:27 pm
    PIGMON wrote:I never really thought that one could get all jazzed up over a tamale


    This is a road trip I have been been planning for sometime and plan to do it this winter. I will be sure to check out the fried tamale, sounds too good to be true. I basically grew up on pizza puff's, tamales and gravy bread from the local hot dog stand as a kid. I never knew the history of the delta tamale until I discovered Willie's in Sparland, IL.

    It immediately became one of my favorite foods, a road trip down south was being planned as soon as I found out about the history of tamales in the Mississippi. I love all types of tamales but the elusive delta style is no doubt on top. Thanks for the great resource info, its been my observation that aside from the Southern food alliance site on the topic that its just going to be best to head down there because most of the vendors just sell on the side of the road, from a cart somewhere or on their porch.
  • Post #3 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:36 pm
    Post #3 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:36 pm Post #3 - September 3rd, 2008, 7:36 pm
    Pigmon,

    Interesting post - thank you for your efforts.

    I was wondering if Jay’s Food Mart, which touched off your interest, is still offering Hot Tamales. How well does Jay's Hot Tamales compare to those from the Delta?

    Again, thanks for the an interesting read.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - September 3rd, 2008, 8:56 pm
    Post #4 - September 3rd, 2008, 8:56 pm Post #4 - September 3rd, 2008, 8:56 pm
    I loved reading about your trip and the tamales-- I mean the HOT tamales. The pictures are priceless, too. Great post.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #5 - September 4th, 2008, 1:33 am
    Post #5 - September 4th, 2008, 1:33 am Post #5 - September 4th, 2008, 1:33 am
    You guys did it! This looks gorgeous. I'm way too exhausted to read this now - cooking nearly 24/7 - can't wait to savor this on my flight back. Thanks so much for posting.
  • Post #6 - September 4th, 2008, 4:34 am
    Post #6 - September 4th, 2008, 4:34 am Post #6 - September 4th, 2008, 4:34 am
    Just a fantastic post, Pigmon!

    Thank you. It's obvious that you've once again put lots of time, work and dedication into your post.
  • Post #7 - September 4th, 2008, 9:33 am
    Post #7 - September 4th, 2008, 9:33 am Post #7 - September 4th, 2008, 9:33 am
    Great, truly informative stuff, Rob. Thanks, for taking the time to enlighten us on a topic on which I was completely unaware. It looks like it was a fantastic trip.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #8 - September 6th, 2008, 11:37 am
    Post #8 - September 6th, 2008, 11:37 am Post #8 - September 6th, 2008, 11:37 am
    Cathy2 wrote:
    I was wondering if Jay’s Food Mart, which touched off your interest, is still offering Hot Tamales.


    Thanks, Cathy.

    I stopped by Jay's about a week or so ago and they claimed that they are still making hot tamales.
    In fact, I called this morning to see if they had any and they said they didn't.
    A few months back, we ordered them ahead of time only to arrive there having them to us that they were never made. :shock:
    I'm highly skeptical that they're being made at all or on any sort of regular basis.

    They've even taken down their "Mississippi Hot Tamales sold here" sign out front.

    I'm hoping that my fears about their future existence there are unfounded, though.

    How well does Jay's Hot Tamales compare to those from the Delta?


    When they were making them, I thought they were pretty damn tasty. A bit on the mushy and oily side but their flavor profile was absolutely in line with the one's we tried down south.

    Also, Jay's hot tamales are a bit larger.
  • Post #9 - September 21st, 2011, 1:20 pm
    Post #9 - September 21st, 2011, 1:20 pm Post #9 - September 21st, 2011, 1:20 pm
    A roadtrip down to Nawlins made a trip to the Delta finally within reach for me. I very much enjoyed the Chicago style stand tamales as a kid and then found out they were just a cheap imitation of hot Delta tamales right here on LTH. That then lead me to a google search which sent me to the Tamale Trail, a project by the good ole folks at Southern Foodways. Since that day I've been patiently waiting to make the trip down the trail. What an experience, this is a trip I would rec to anyone from college kids to retired couples, especially those interested in music, culture and of course food.

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    The Mississippi Delta

    Already expertly analyzed in this OP and on the Tamale Trail site, I'll just share some personal thoughts and experiences and add in some other eats and traditions/ways of life found in Mississippi. We stayed at the Ground Zero Blues Club which is a popular live music spot with a restaurant/bar and lodging upstairs. Owned by Morgan Freeman this was a great place to stay and I would say thee place. Prices were great and the rooms were nice. They're right above the venue and very reasonably priced. They took very good care of us, making sure our stay was a fun one. It's also right in the heart of town and not off in never ending fast food highway land.

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    Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale

    This is the spot to see some of the great music acts that come thru town. It's also not far from some real deal juke joints, no pics, but try and stop in one. Morgan Freeman and others are trying to revitalize the area and the locals are all in. There's great people everywhere, I didn't come across one rude/stupid person while down there. Unlike locals in other tourist spots, the people of Clarksdale appreciate the fact your visiting and want you to come back.

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    The view as you enter the club/restaurant

    We got in a little later and just caught the end of a show but we stopped back in early Friday afternoon for some drinks as "The Mississippi Bluesman" Grady Champion was setting up for his performance later that night. The Bourbon Mall in Leland (seen upthread) was on the must get too list but it burned down and hasn't reopened. They do however have a lunch/dinner menu at Ground Zero and fried tamales are on that. I hear the rest of the menu is great and it looked nice. The tamales were a good indicator, very tasty and perfect with a few cold ones.

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    Fried hot tamales from Ground Zero Blues Club

    We actually started our day over at Miss Del's General Store where my friend got some coffee. The ladies over there told us breakfast needed to be had at the Rest Haven. It was on the list and thus we knew where we were headed for our first bite in the Delta.

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    Popular Lebanese Breakfast joint in Clarksdale

    This was the perfect place to start the trip. Located on Highway 61 Chamoun's Rest Haven is a staple of the Delta and a good reflection of what the area is. You might not expect Lebanese food in the middle of Bluesland but the area is a southern melting pot of African, Italian, Chinese, Lebanese, Jewish, Mexican and more.

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    The view from a booth

    The menu has all of the regular options for a traditional southern breakfast but it's also got the Lebanese portion or you could go with both. The friendly young lady at the general store rec'd the Kibbie omelet so that's what my friends went with while I got one piece of fried Kibbie, four grape leaves and fries. Kibbie is usually ground lamb (they use lean beef) with bulgur and it worked really well as an omelet stuffer with cheese. My solo piece was good but a little dry without any sauce to drown it in but the warm fresh pita was nice and the grape leaves I thought were great. They're served warm, filled with ground beef and similar to the tamales in that they're greasy in a good way. These had bacon taste inside giving them great flavor. I should of got a bundle more for the road.

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    Kibbie & Cheese Omelet with hash browns

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    Fried Kibbie with grape leaves

    Also famous at the Rest Haven is their pie. The only argument about who's is best is whether its the chocolate or coconut from here. In which case you gotta try both. They come topped with "mile high meringue" and it's simple to see why people come from Memphis as well as all over, some up to twice a month to eat these.

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    Chocolate and coconut creme pies from the Rest Haven

    Right after Rest Haven it was on over to another famous Lebanese spot in the Delta.

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    Famous MS BBQ spot in Clarksdale

    Abe's Bar-B-Q is known for their BBQ sandwiches and was packed around 11a when we went in for a takeout. Abraham Davis arrived in Mississippi in 1913. He started his BBQ joint in 1924 and today it's one of the states oldest restaurants. A true American gem, it's a place that defied segregation and set an example for others on how it should be done. Both life and bbq. The pork sandwiches are the main draw and best ordered large, which includes more meat and a middle bun.

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    Abe's famous pork sandwich

    At Abe's they smoke the butts over pecan wood until ready. They then put them in the fridge overnight and slice it thin the next morning. The sliced meat goes back onto the griddle producing many crispy browned pieces throughout the sandwich. I usually prefer no cole slaw but had to have it the locals way and was glad I did. Some of the best slaw ever, simple with the perfect kick of pepper, worked great with the meat. We also got the tamale tour started here with a half order (6) and they too were very good. Nice representation of what was about to come.

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    Abe's Tamales

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    Across the street from Abe's: The Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul

    Now it was time to get down to business as we had 10+ spots planned for the Tamale Trail. I had thought The Ranchero was rec'd for theirs but they didn't sell them. I did however end up getting a half slab of their famous Ranchero Ribs. Not bad but just not my style. They would of made for great leftovers and some MS style fried rice with the meat pulled off and cut up.

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    Ranch ribs from The Ranchero in Clarksdale

    So next up on the trail was the world famous Hick's in Clarksdale. We got there right as they were opening and it was an experience getting to meet the man and his wife. Both terrific people who made us feel like we were longtime regulars. Read more about them HERE.

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    World Famous Hot Tamales found here

    It was only around noon time when the man himself was out at the counter with a beer cracked opened. After a few questions with Mr. Hicks we were in a full blown conversation. Topics ranging from the Cubs, he's a fan and wants to know whats wrong? (Ricketts it now seems is also an idiot) to the most famous people he's met. He counts former President Clinton and the late Dale Earnhardt as two of his biggest fans. In fact he's good friends with the entire Earnhardt family and they, Junior included, like so many others around the world get Hick's Hot Tamales shipped thru fed-ex. I'm not sure if Bill is allowed to eat hot tamales all day anymore, his leash has been tightened since his meeting with Monica. Mr. Hicks gotta crack outta that.

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    Mr. Eugene Hicks, unofficial mayor of Clarksdale

    After trying a half dozen it was easy to conclude as to why Hick's Hot's are world renowned. Easily the most unique tasting of all the spots we went to these were fantastic and had me thinking about something he mentioned earlier. Mr. Hick's is tired, he learned how to make tamales at 13 when a local neighborhood man taught him how. Then the neighbors said his were even better than the mans that taught him how to make them and Hick's Hot Tamales launched off. He wants to retire but he cant find anyone that can do them right, it's a three day process making these and he's ready to sell but only if he knows his recipe and legend live on. Intriguing...

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    Hick's Hot Tamales

    I did take note of PIGMON's comment on how the tamales get more mushy as the day goes on and these were the most sturdy of the many we had. You could pick one up and it would stay intact for at least a little bit. The texture was different as was the flavor. Even though this was just our 2nd tamale stop we got a dozen to go and some rib tips too. The tips could hang here in Chicago, he dashes them with the secret tamale spice before they come off the smoker. Then the tamales, well I'm ready to drive back for more, if that doesn't work out there's always Fed-Ex.

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    Delta Eats

    As much as I wanted to stay and further explore, it was time to leave Clarksdale and make our way down south en route to Nawlins. But not without stops along the way. I saved some shops for my next visit but we still managed to do quite a few. First stop, Cleveland. Sadly many of the spots featured on the tamale trail in Cleveland are no more. John's Homestyle Hot Tamales was one I was really looking forward too. It was in a little house turned kitchen but as we rode up it was gone. I think in the end four of the spots we had on the radar were no more. A stop into a random small grocery store due to a sign (they were out) lead us to another place were tamales are served out of a home by a husband/wife team. We rode down the block into the neighborhood but the "yellow house" was locked up, maybe they were on vacation.

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    RIP

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    Exploring the Tamale Trail

    One place featured on the Southern Foodways trail was still open and had a flow of customers. We stopped into Delta Fast Food and I ran in for an order. Another cool little spot. Read more about them HERE.

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    Cleveland, MS

    Gentle Lee Rainey, the proprietor, was working his store when I went in. It reminded me of a place now long gone in Lincoln Park called Kozy's (Where Tavish Bar is today). You can get everything from baby groceries to made to order food here, fireworks, beer, baseball cards and all that other good stuff too, like some hot tamales.

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    View from inside (notice the Koolickles to the left)

    Saltines are a common side with a sack of hots in the Delta. At Fast Food they have a longer cut cracker which is the perfect size to make a sandwich out of your tamales and crackers. These were really tasty, like PIGMON and anyone who enjoys these snacks, I found them all to be good eats. There weren't any I didn't like.

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    Delta Fast Food Hot Tamales

    We drove on after another place was closed and headed to Greenville for a few stops. Along with Hick's we all agreed that Hot Tamale Heaven in Greenville were the most noticeable in the goodness factor. They've been a family business since the 70's operating carts outside the market and stands with drive thru's serving their famous family recipe. Read more HERE.

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    Hot Tamale Heaven

    Next up was one of the more memorable stops I've ever been to while on a foodventure. My buddy had his laptop in the car and what a great thing that is to have on a roadtrip revolved around food. He yelled out "were not far from Maria's Hot Tamales according to Google" Me being the organizer I said, sweet lets check it out. So we turned onto a street in a neighborhood with nothing else around as far as retail and I thought to myself, dammit! another one that bit the dust.

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    I mean it says this is the address but there's no signs of tamales...

    Well onto the next one we thought. Until I convinced my friend driving that it's not all that crazy to just drive into some random peoples driveway with out of state plates while in Mississippi :wink:.

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    Well look at that! a tamale shack in back

    I walked up to it but no one was inside. So my buddy gave me a number and said call this and see whats up. I dialed and it rang twice before what sounded like a very old man answered "HELLO" I said hi and explained we were looking for some tamales "WHAT?" "We were wondering if you had any tamales" "Tamales? YA, when do you need them?" "We were thinking now" "WHAT?" Mr. Thornton my buddy explained is heart of hearing but after about 10 minutes going back and forth, in which I could hear him from his yard, he understood we wanted some hots and he said no prob but needed 45 minutes to make them and we should call back then. Two minutes later he stepped out his back porch and was wondering if we were the people that were just talking to him.

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    "Come on in guys, lemme show ya"

    He was very happy to have us and invited us to come inside his hut and stay while he made us a batch. At 94 years old he might of moved a little slow taking very small steps as he moved forward and also has hearing problems but other that he was as sharp as a fresh made prison blade. He served in the Navy during World War II and his handshake was something else, full of strength. He started making tamales after convincing a neighborhood friend how to teach him how to out of necessity after he lost his job. He didn't want the tamales mans secret recipe just to learn how to make them and then he came up with his own special recipe. He's da man.

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    Proud of his publicity he has all the articles framed on the wall

    We sat there drinking beers as he made the bundle and it was special and we all knew it. The stories of him and his wife of 56 years who he obviously adored or of how only one other person who had his recipe for a while because "I had cancer in my tongue and the doctor made me stop making tamales, I was none too happy" were amazing. So he told his best friend, now dead, how to do it while he wasn't allowed. $8,000 will get you the recipe, lessons and everything else you need to make his famous tamales and it might be worth it just to hang with Grandpa Shine and hear some of his stories. They are also available at a local supermarket which paid him for showing them his secrets and spice concoction which he calls "tutti frutti" He said he had to do that a few years back as he got older, needed someone else to make them routinely.


    We talked the whole time about all sorts of fun things, I wish I got more vid

    As hard it was to do we eventually had to take off. Mr. Thornton was thrilled we stopped in and wouldn't even let us give him the cash for the tamales, but we made him take it to buy some beer. He thanked us time after time and asked us to stop by again as he wrote down our info on a piece of paper. What a great guy, an experience I'll likely never forget. If you do the trail call him and or stop by, he'll love it and so will you. Read more about his story HERE.

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    Maria's Hot Tamales cooking away, spicy smelling scents fill the air!

    We went looking for Maria's because Scott's Hot Tamales, a walk up window, doesn't open until 5p (at least on Friday's). The same goes for Doe's Eat Place which we also stopped over at but never made it back since there was no way we would eat a steak so that stop was saved and I have plans for that. Scott's were very good too, just like every other batch in fact. But what I liked about theirs was the heavy spicing which they seemed to put into the cornmeal before they are made. Scott has been making tamales since he was a kid, when they got back from school his mom made them make tamales. More on them HERE.

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    Scott's Spicy Hot Tamales

    So as the clock neared night we needed to get moving and planned to spend the night in Natchez but not before a couple more stops. J's Hot Tamales we were told was a famous place that used to be an old gas station/corner market where some of the states best tamales are made. It eventually was torn down and turned into a modern day gas station but with that came the tamales which are still served in the food to go display case inside the gas station.

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    Greenville, MS: Hot Tamales for those hungry while filling up the truck

    These were nice too and since it was later in the day, the most mushy with lots of liquid in the aluminum foil they come wrapped in. Like every other stop, I'd happily eat J's all day too which placed in the last ever Hot Tamale Contest back in 2005. They need to bring that back. Make sure to save some room for their famous peach cobbler too.

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    Bundle of Hot's from J's Corner Market at the gas station

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    Peach Cobbler and hot tamales, best gas station eats I remember

    So that was it for Greenville as we needed to head over to the small town of Louise, MS for something I've always wanted to get. I mentioned how this area is a melting pot and when the Chinese came to Mississippi in the 20's they started controlling the grocery business' opening up local spots where they lived. Nowadays there's still a bunch of Chinese owned and operated grocery stores throughout the state. Next trip I plan to explore these further and you can read more about them HERE and also I'm sure over at Southern Foodways.

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    Clarksdale, MS (Video Story HERE)

    We were headed to Louise so I could finally get my hands on the famous 'Hoover sauce' of Mississippi. Sold exclusively at Lee Hong Company Grocery Store (and by mail and maybe some other Chinese grocers, ha, but you gotta meet the man) It was like reaching the promised land when we pulled up around 7p that evening as the sun was setting. I had called a couple times earlier making sure they didn't or weren't planning on closing early as we ran a little late.

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    Louise, MS

    Located in a small town of 315 people right there at the end of Main street is longtime citizen Hoover Lee's grocery store. It's him, the sauce guy as he's called who created what is now a well known southern sauce, he's got a summary on Wikipedia and has been in numerous publications. A quick Google search will lead you to stories, recipes and all sorts of info on the former mayor of Louise who's been in Mississippi since 1934.

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    Mr and Mrs. Lee running their grocery store

    We stopped in and as we said hello and went over to the sauce Mrs. Lee asked if we were the ones who called earlier a few times. I told her it was me and she gave a big smile and said "we been expecting y'all" Mr. Lee was full of good vibes asking "where y'all from?" and loving it when we told him Chicago. The sauce was first put together in 1975 when Mr. Lee was playing around trying to make his own Chinese BBQ sauce. As he played around he handed it out to friends and brought dishes to pot lucks made with it and eventually said screw this "Im'a sell it at the store" Its a Far East meets the American South marinade that works great on meats.

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    The famous Hoover Sauce found in Mississippi

    We got to chat with the Lee's and it was a great time. He knew we were headed down for the Saints game and told us how his son has season tix and heads down there from Louise for every home game to tailgate and watch them live. He told us "Ya he leave every Thursday and stay down there until Monday, I told him, you must have yoself a really good paying job der huh?" as he laughed away. His wife was so sweet and she was so excited we were exploring the area asking us about Ground Zero in Clarskdale and how she loved it. They too insisted we back and I will soon, I want to spend the day over there and marinate some meats and cook them with the couple. Available by the quart and gallon, I got one of each. I have yet to try the sauce but plan on experimenting this week, this looks good.

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    An all American day in the Delta

    We rode out after picking up the sauce and were headed to Natchez for the night. As we rode I thought about how sweet it would be to get a dinner with Uncle Hicks, Grandpa Shine and the Old Mississippi Sauce Moss at a place like Doe's Eat Place. What an experience that would be. We got into Natchez around 10p after a push by me to get us to Fat Mama's for some tamales. They were the only place other than fast food and the casino that stayed open until 10 and we got there a little after. They serve drinks til 11 and made us a batch of hots. Good again and the margarita's, although frozen, were refreshing after a day of eating Mississippi. There's a nice deck to have food and drinks at there too. Off to the casino, maybe some other entertainment with some tums too. After that bed before rolling into NOLA Saturday morning.

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    Fat Mama's Hot Tamales in Natchez, MS

    Ground Zero Blue's Club
    352 Delta Avenue
    Clarksdale, MS 38614
    (662) 621-9009

    Chamoun's Rest Haven
    419 North State Street
    Clarksdale, MS 38614
    (662) 624-8601

    Abe's BBQ
    616 1/2 N State Street
    Clarksdale, MS 38614
    (662) 624-9947

    See the Tamale Trail for address' and updates on hot tamale shacks.

    Lee Hong Grocery
    1294 Main Street
    Louise, MS 39097
    (662) 836-5131
    Last edited by Da Beef on September 22nd, 2011, 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #10 - September 21st, 2011, 1:53 pm
    Post #10 - September 21st, 2011, 1:53 pm Post #10 - September 21st, 2011, 1:53 pm
    wow

    I am speechless.
    What a phenomenal post.
    I especially liked the part about Maria's/Mr. Thornton.
    Sounds like a great trip--thanks for posting about it.
  • Post #11 - September 21st, 2011, 2:04 pm
    Post #11 - September 21st, 2011, 2:04 pm Post #11 - September 21st, 2011, 2:04 pm
    Beef,

    How many days did you take to reach NO?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - September 21st, 2011, 3:15 pm
    Post #12 - September 21st, 2011, 3:15 pm Post #12 - September 21st, 2011, 3:15 pm
    What a week. First Mike G's genuine documentary of Chicago BBQ and now a joyful traveler's tale of Delta tamales without a speck of pretense or even critical distance. You nail down the moment in these things. Thanks much Beef.
  • Post #13 - September 21st, 2011, 3:57 pm
    Post #13 - September 21st, 2011, 3:57 pm Post #13 - September 21st, 2011, 3:57 pm
    I did a mini-version of this trip a few years ago (including the stop at Carl's in St. Louis) for the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale. Your post made me want to do it again soon!
  • Post #14 - September 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm
    Post #14 - September 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm Post #14 - September 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm
    Da Beef wrote:I very much enjoyed the Chicago style stand tamales as a kid and then found out they were just a cheap imitation of hot Delta tamales right here on LTH.

    That may be John T. Edge's take on this, though it may be wishful thinking.

    Rene G will very likely pipe up with all the details. According to his research, the tradition of tamales is long before the Great Migration (Southern blacks to Chicago). The few Mississippi Delta Tamales found in the last few years have been so different from those made locally for several generations (TomTom Tamales), they are not really the same.

    If you ever saw the ladies hand wrapping Tom Tom Tamales, it is just as respectable an effort as those made in Mississippi.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #15 - September 21st, 2011, 5:27 pm
    Post #15 - September 21st, 2011, 5:27 pm Post #15 - September 21st, 2011, 5:27 pm
    stevez wrote:Beef,

    How many days did you take to reach NO?


    We got out of the city Thursday around Noon and stopped in St. Louis for an hour and a half and then headed to Clarksdale which we got into around Midnight. Spent Friday doing this trip down into Natchez where we stayed and were in New Orleans around 11a Saturday.

    Cathy2 wrote:
    Da Beef wrote:I very much enjoyed the Chicago style stand tamales as a kid and then found out they were just a cheap imitation of hot Delta tamales right here on LTH.

    That may be John T. Edge's take on this, though it may be wishful thinking.

    Rene G will very likely pipe up with all the details. According to his research, the tradition of tamales is long before the Great Migration (Southern blacks to Chicago). The few Mississippi Delta Tamales found in the last few years have been so different from those made locally for several generations (TomTom Tamales), they are not really the same.

    If you ever saw the ladies hand wrapping Tom Tom Tamales, it is just as respectable an effort as those made in Mississippi.

    Regards,


    Not sure what you mean but I'd love to hear ya'll's theories. I do know that the Mexican migration into Chicago during the 20's is what started Iltaco with vendors selling them to traders according to some stories, I don't have living proof. The great migration and maybe I'm wrong but I believe was both before the 1920's and after, hell maybe around the same time as the Mexicans came. I would say those like Tom Tom are much more similar to Delta style hots than Mexican tamales found on Maxwell street and elsewhere.

    Sure it's respectable, never said it wasn't but they arent nearly as good as any of those from the Delta but still similar like a burger from McDonald's and one from your kitchen with same ingredients. I don't think it's a three day process at Tom Tom but I do think its a fair comparison of tamales like that from the Delta, they're yellow cornmeal with spiced ground beef. The two do taste a little different (homemade always being better) and arent the same texture wise (Delta hots are slippery and can be hard to pick up while those like Supreme are dry) but both are similar in ingredients. That was my thought and here's the John T. Edge's you mention. I think the old J's on State? Willies and all of these up above are much more like a bundle from Johnnie's than one from La Casa Del pueblo.

    Edited to add: I know and realize tamales were in Chicago and being sold before the southern migration but does anyone know exactly what type of tamales those were? If not its possible the hot dog stand style is derived from the Delta but no there is no proof that I know of. They are however similar enough (maybe to just me) and with the Chicago-Mississippi Delta connection doesn't seem far fetched that there is maybe a connection in these tamales too. Maybe the Delta style tamales in MS came down there from Chicago?
  • Post #16 - September 22nd, 2011, 9:45 am
    Post #16 - September 22nd, 2011, 9:45 am Post #16 - September 22nd, 2011, 9:45 am

    Thanks for including the link to that older, B.C. ("Before, on Chowhound") discussion for those of us who come late to this topic. I had no idea that so many here were involved in researching tamales way back when.

    I also found the mention of lunch wagons quite topical in view of the Historic Hamburger Wagon thread.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #17 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:20 pm
    Post #17 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:20 pm Post #17 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:20 pm
    Not for nothing, but I thought it was pretty well settled (and self-evident) that all of these tamales have Mexican roots. Whether Mexican field workers' tamales reinterpreted by black workers in Mississippi were brought north, or Chicago hot dog stand tamales developed independently (but similarly) in Chicago, or both, seems less clear. All of this reminds me of an Abbott & Costello bit. You know the one. No, not who's on first. There's a great "hot tamales" bit where Abbott dresses up like a masa mama. Can't find that, but here's another one, explaining why mustard is the appropriate hot dog condiment. NB, the hot dog vendor in this clip is first and foremost a Mexican tamale vendor in downtown LA, selling red hots out of his tamale cart. Intriguing, no?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJyorgHxvLA
  • Post #18 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:38 pm
    Post #18 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:38 pm Post #18 - September 22nd, 2011, 1:38 pm
    Da Beef, what a rich addition to this Pigmon-initiated thread! The photos, the writing, the concepts (tamales on Saltines), a beautiful effort. Rarely have I felt such thanks for a post.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #19 - September 22nd, 2011, 2:11 pm
    Post #19 - September 22nd, 2011, 2:11 pm Post #19 - September 22nd, 2011, 2:11 pm
    Wow, another Classic Beef Adventure!!! Tnx soooo much for this, Da!!

    Where next? You've gone North, you've gone South—maybe you should go East or West?! :lol:

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #20 - September 23rd, 2011, 12:59 am
    Post #20 - September 23rd, 2011, 12:59 am Post #20 - September 23rd, 2011, 12:59 am
    Beef, thank you for your wonderful and richly informative post. It felt like I was right there with you, I could almost taste those tamales!
    Fettuccine alfredo is mac and cheese for adults.
  • Post #21 - September 23rd, 2011, 11:09 am
    Post #21 - September 23rd, 2011, 11:09 am Post #21 - September 23rd, 2011, 11:09 am
    great write up Beef about one our favorite spots in America(the delta area)--hopefully will get back again soon
    thanks
  • Post #22 - September 25th, 2011, 12:20 pm
    Post #22 - September 25th, 2011, 12:20 pm Post #22 - September 25th, 2011, 12:20 pm
    For those interested in tamale history in general, here's a post that links to a recent article in the LA Times about turn-of-the-century tamale wagons.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #23 - January 7th, 2014, 4:59 pm
    Post #23 - January 7th, 2014, 4:59 pm Post #23 - January 7th, 2014, 4:59 pm
    Calvin Trillin has a good write-up in the most recent (or maybe penultimate) New Yorker on the delta hot tamale and his visit to the Delta Hot Tamale Festival in Greenville. Excerpt here; I believe access to the full article requires a subscription.
  • Post #24 - January 7th, 2014, 6:27 pm
    Post #24 - January 7th, 2014, 6:27 pm Post #24 - January 7th, 2014, 6:27 pm
    Wow! I've missed these classic posts from Pigmon and Da Beef during my years on LTH and only came across them today. Absolutely stunning - I'm truly envious of these adventures. I'm at a loss for words to describe how touching and interesting I found Beef's story of meeting and preparing tamales with the Maria's guy at the guy's "restaurant" behind his home on a residential street. And it's listed on Google...unbelievable.

    So, obviously, now I have a powerful hankering for Chicago or Mississippi style delta tamales. Does anyone have experience ordering either online? I found some vendors (mostly MS - Tom Tom's website is undergoing renovation right now). I'd love some LTH recommendations for whom I should be ordering from.

    -Habibi
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #25 - January 7th, 2014, 9:07 pm
    Post #25 - January 7th, 2014, 9:07 pm Post #25 - January 7th, 2014, 9:07 pm
    Got to ask - how was the Hoover Sauce?
  • Post #26 - January 7th, 2014, 10:27 pm
    Post #26 - January 7th, 2014, 10:27 pm Post #26 - January 7th, 2014, 10:27 pm
    Habibi wrote:I'm at a loss for words to describe how touching and interesting I found Beef's story of meeting and preparing tamales with the Maria's guy at the guy's "restaurant" behind his home on a residential street. And it's listed on Google...unbelievable.

    So, obviously, now I have a powerful hankering for Chicago or Mississippi style delta tamales. Does anyone have experience ordering either online? I found some vendors (mostly MS - Tom Tom's website is undergoing renovation right now). I'd love some LTH recommendations for whom I should be ordering from.

    -Habibi


    Glad you liked it, I know I loved it, "foodie" or not a day on the trail is something everyone should do once. Unfortunately the memories of hanging with Mr. Lawrence "Shine" Thornton is all me or anyone else will ever have. He was brutally murdered last October by four teens in a mugging that took place in the very driveway we drove up too. Since this is a family website I'll refrain from going too in depth about what I'd do to the punk ass kids who did it, but their heads submerged in a pot of that boiling tamale juice would just be the start. While the news of it made me very angry it was also really cool how many emails I got from others thru the old blog informing me of his death. All from people who shared similar experiences to the one me and my buddies did on our trip.

    Image
    The Greenville Tamale Don: Lawrence E. "Shine" Thornton (November 23, 1925 - October 20, 2013) and my friends

    I don't know what it is about awesome interesting people and Delta style tamales but between Mr. Thornton, Mr. Hicks, the rest of the guys mentioned on here as well as Willie who sold tamales in Sparland, IL (RIP), and Yoland (Chicago's only Delta style tamale slanger), there sure are some characters that take up the craft. I mean that in the nicest way possible. All are some of the most memorable people I've met on the food trail. As far as where to get them mail ordered, Fat Mama's in Natchez (last stop on my trip) does them. I think they'd reheat just fine. But your best bet is waiting until next time you're in Chicago and paying Yoland a visit. What he and the rest on this thread make aren't really like the Chi-Style fast food shacks that carry Supreme, Tom Tom etc. The real deal Delta style ones are much better.

    bw77 wrote:Got to ask - how was the Hoover Sauce?


    Fantastic. I enjoyed it on grilled wings as well as a marinade for cheaper steaks which then made for great sandwiches.
  • Post #27 - January 7th, 2014, 10:39 pm
    Post #27 - January 7th, 2014, 10:39 pm Post #27 - January 7th, 2014, 10:39 pm
    Horrible news about Mr. Thornton, and a sad note in one of the most remarkable threads ever.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #28 - January 7th, 2014, 11:19 pm
    Post #28 - January 7th, 2014, 11:19 pm Post #28 - January 7th, 2014, 11:19 pm
    Beef, we're all enormously in your debt for this and the many other introductions you've given us to treasures of foods and their creators we would otherwise never have known.

    Thank you.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #29 - January 8th, 2014, 12:51 am
    Post #29 - January 8th, 2014, 12:51 am Post #29 - January 8th, 2014, 12:51 am
    Ok, bear with me...dumb question of the day coming up.

    How do you properly EAT a tamale, hot or otherwise? Do you remove it from the husk or just chow it all?

    My first, and so far only experience with them was as a gift from a thankful Abuelita after I had Baptized her Grandchildren. They, like the rest of the over-stuffed sack of goodness, were fantastic...but out of ignorance perhaps, I opened them up and spooned out the innerds.
    D.G. Sullivan's, "we're a little bit Irish, and a whole lot of fun"!
  • Post #30 - January 8th, 2014, 10:26 am
    Post #30 - January 8th, 2014, 10:26 am Post #30 - January 8th, 2014, 10:26 am
    If it's in a corn husk, remove the husk and don't eat it (unless you're really hurtin' for roughage :roll: ). Mississippi Delta Tamales usually come wrapped in foil or paper, which you shouldn't eat, either.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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