It’s December, and it’s time for tamales. Actually, I love tamales at anytime of the year. But when the temperatures cool, they’re even better.
On Wednesday night, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m., the Arkansas Educational Television Network will debut a program titled “On the Tamale Trail.” Last year, AETN camera crews followed Kane Webb, Bill Vickery and me through the Delta regions of Arkansas and Mississippi in search of the best tamales we could find.
In Arkansas, we ate Pasquale’s tamales in Helena-West Helena and Rhoda’s tamales in Lake Village. In Mississippi, we visited Hicks’ and Abe’s in Clarksdale, John’s in Cleveland, the White Front in Rosedale, Doe’s in Greenville and Maria’s (in Shine Thornton’s backyard) in Greenville.
If you get a chance to watch the documentary Wednesday night, let me know what you think.
And let me know where you go to find the best tamales.
Delta tamales, of course, are different from Mexican tamales. I like both. My Mexican-American mother-in-law, on the other hand, hates Delta tamales. It’s apples and oranges.
If you have any interest in the subject, I urge you to go to the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Delta Tamale Trail website at www.tamaletrail.com.
SFA director and Southern food expert John T. Edge writes: “So what is this food, so often associated with Mexico, doing in the Mississippi Delta, you might ask. Isn’t this just an aberration? Like finding curried conch in Collierville, Tenn., or foie gras in Fort Smith, Ark.? It’s not that simple. Tamales have been a menu mainstay in the Mississippi Delta for much of the 20th century. Indeed, along with catfish, they may just be the archetypal Delta food. Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson sang about them in the song ‘They’re Red Hot,’ recorded in 1936.”
My mother remembers a tamale vendor roaming the streets when she was growing up in Des Arc.
My father remembers a tamale vendor when he was a child in Benton.
I’m glad we can still find Delta tamales. Eat up. It’s tamale time.