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Today is May 20, 2019

Featured Cookbook

‘Delta Hot Tamales: History, Stories & Recipes’

‘Delta Hot Tamales: History, Stories & Recipes’

    Wait—aren’t hot tamales a Mexican tradition? Yes and no. Author Anne Martin explains in her new book about the Mississippi Delta’s own version of hot tamales and why they have remained a staple of Delta cuisine for generations.
    Their ancestry is unclear, but Delta hot tamales likely evolved from Hispanic, African American, Native American and European influences in the Mississippi Delta. Unlike their Mexican cousins, Delta hot tamales are made with corn meal, not corn masa flour; they are smaller and more tubular in shape, spicier, and simmered rather than steamed.
    Greenville, the self-proclaimed Hot Tamale Capital of the World, is the epicenter of Delta hot tamales, Martin asserts. More hot tamale makers live in the Greenville area than any other Delta community.
    Though the fundamentals may be the same—spiced meat encased in a spiced corn meal dough wrapped in a corn husk—each tamale maker takes pride in his or her own secret recipe. Some have experimented with unexpected ingredients—like fruit and vegetables—while others stick to family heirloom recipes.
    Tamale makers show off their culinary mastery while competing to become Grand Champion at Greenville’s annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival. This year’s event is Oct. 13-15 and features not only hot tamale contests and vendors but Hot Tamale Royalty, a street party, music and more. (Get details at MainStreetGreenville.com.)
    Martin is a co-founder of the festival, a journalist and a Delta native. Her illustrated book serves as a complete guide to hot tamale lore and culture. She profiles tamale makers with names such as Sho-Nuff, Juke Joint Food and Hot Tamale Heaven. Most of them are family businesses that started in a home kitchen; one couple began by peddling tamales from the trunk of their car.
    Martin describes in detail the preparation of hot tamales by hand and machine, and offers recipes (including those reprinted here) for using homemade or purchased tamales in dishes. Whether eaten whole, sliced and baked in a casserole, or smothered in chili and cheese, there is no wrong way to eat a hot tamale.
    Even if you’ve never tasted “the Delta’s favorite food,” Martin’s book will have you running for the nearest hot tamale stand.
    “Delta Hot Tamales” is available in softcover where books are sold. Price is $21.99. An e-book is also available.

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