RE: Fried Hot Tamales
Sundancer's question about tamales in the Delta is an interesting one. I've heard and read several theories--one being that they were brought there by Mexican migrant cotton-pickers 60 or 70 years ago. However, Shelby Foote claims he saw tamales down there before he saw any Mexicans. You find African-American tamale makers in several Delta towns, and tamales are included on the menus of Italian-owned restaurants like Doe's in Greenville, Giardina's and Lusco's in Greenwood. I hold to an unproven theory that there may be some Choctaw influence, too. Just another one of those odd cultural amalgams you find in the South, and another reason why the Delta is such a fascinating place. Paul references Mary's Hot Tamales in Knoxville, Tennessee. It's run by Clara Robinson, who grew up in the Delta, in Greenville, Mississippi. Her version of a Mississippi Delta-style tamale is spiced ground beef inside a spiced cornmeal paste, all steamed in paper. She serves them just like that, with little plastic packets of Texas Pete Hot Sauce, which, as we all know, is actually made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Clara also has on the menu a "Full House," which is tamales covered with chili. I've talked to some folks around Knoxville who claim their city as the origin of that practice.
Johnson City, Tennessee