Tamales

The tamale – corn masa, meat, and spice packed into a husk and steamed – is popular everywhere there are Mexican restaurants, but it has a special resonance in the Mississippi Delta and in the American Southwest. In the Southwest, where the tamale is a direct reflection of Mexican cuisine, it is much more than nutritional sustenance. It is supreme comfort food; and the making of tamales is a bonding experience for families and communities. 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. It is traditional for families and friends to gather on December 24th to make and eat tamales together. In the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis down to Vicksburg, tamales are sold by men and women, black and white, from street carts, off back porches, and in eateries of every kind. How they got to Mississippi is a matter of some speculation, the most likely explanation being that they came with Mexican farm hands. Today’s Delta tamales are sold either ready to eat or tied up with string by threes and packed into take-away coffee cans that can hold three dozen.

Restaurants With This Dish

Yuca’s Hut

LOS ANGELES, CA

Bohemian Cafe - Jaeger Schnitzel
Bohemian Cafe

OMAHA, NE

Abe’s - Pork Sandwich
Abe’s

CLARKSDALE, MS

Sariñana’s Tamale Factory

SANTA ANA, CA

Betsy’s Around the Corner

AIKEN, SC

Petite Pantry

BISHOP, CA

Discuss

What do you think of Tamales?

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