Hot Tamales | Food of Family and Community

A Beloved Dish

The tamale – corn masa, meat, and spice packed into a husk and steamed – is popular everywhere there are Mexican restaurants. But it resonates with special meaning in the Mississippi Delta and in the American Southwest. In these regions, it represents family and community.

Direct from Mexico

In the Southwest, the tamale expresses the importance of Mexican cuisine. It goes far beyond nutritional sustenance. It holds a place of honor as a favorite comfort food. Family and community bond together making them. Carlotta Flores, the culinary pillar of Tucson’s El Charro (which her grandmother founded in 1922), told us, “I recall the comfort of tamales at times of bereavement. At times of joy. At times of closeness with others. This ancient food holds memories good and sad. But most of all it contains our family identity.” In Mexican-American households, tamales are as much a part of Christmas as cookies are in other cultures. Tradition calls for family and friends to gather on December 24th to make and eat tamales together.

Deep South Tamales

In the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis down to Vicksburg, men and women, black and white, vend tamales. You’ll find them sold from street carts, off back porches, and in eateries of every kind. Food historians wonder how they got to Mississippi. Most likely, they came with Mexican farm hands. With corn ubiquitous, they easily became part of the diet of both whites and blacks. Today’s Delta tamales are sold either ready to eat or tied up with string by threes. Traditionally, take-out tamales come in large coffee cans that can hold three dozen.

Recipe for hot tamales.

Restaurants With This Dish

Wade’s Restaurant


The Donut Shop


Steven’s Barbecue


Blue Canoe Cafe


Restaurante Las Palmas


The Irish Shanti



What do you think of Hot Tamales | Food of Family and Community?

One Response to “Hot Tamales | Food of Family and Community”

Michael and Arlyn Murphy

February 15th, 2022


We love your show. As a former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea from 1975-77 at the time, to traveling all over the world—Europe, Asia, South America—I love all your stuff that you have encountered over the years. Everywhere there is REAL, GOOD food, and most often it is a joy to eat. I am 77 years old and thought that I was finished. But, now I am certain that I can go to 91—92 with all the restaurants just here in Texas. Thanks for the information from your show.

Mike and Arlyn Murphy, Retired, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas


Latest Articles & Guides

Lobster roll
6 best restaurants in New England

Looking for some stops along your Road trip  Check out our picks for the 6 best restaurants...

Clam Shack - Lobster Roll
14 Best Lobster Rolls in New England

Bad lobster rolls are easy to come by  We've done the research and have found the best...

Best Affordable Eats Along Sedona’s Red Rock Drive

Scenic Driving and Good Eating Rising an average of an inch every 60 to 80 years, the...

Road trip | Seattle to Yakima Washington

Road Trip Overview A road trip over the Cascades through Snoqualmie Pass leads not only to a...

America’s Byways: Road trip through the Florida Keys

Road trip through the Florida Keys Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico...

The Best Hidden Gem Restaurants of Boston | Roadfood Bests

Best Hidden Gem Restaurants in Boston Tradition-bound and cutting edge, Boston has...


Connect with us #Roadfood