Walt's Look Around: Hot Tamale Festival - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Walt's Look Around: Hot Tamale Festival

GREENVILLE, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Now this is the kind of festival that has a chance of catching on because it wasn't planned out by the Chamber of Commerce. But more or less started in Frank Carlton's backyard as he'd invite friends over every year for a cook out. Long story short, when the friends outgrew the yard the cookout came to the foot of the levee in downtown Greenville and became the Delta Hot Tamale Festival this year and was named in Frank's honor, and everybody was invited.

The Tamale is ubiquitous in the Delta, probably the most ecumenical food there is, crossing all ethnic, racial, religious and economic lines and ends up on everybody's table now and again. Delta sage and philosopher, Hank Burdine, carries praise for the tamale even further.

Hank Burdine/Delta Writer: Well as far as the Mississippi Delta concerns and its ties with the hot tamales, it's the basis of civilization here. Migrant farm workers came from Mexico and south Texas and with them brought the hot tamale, the lowly hot tamale. They got it originally from the Mesopotamian culture down in the Mayan and Incan ruins in Central America and Guatemala. They'd make 'em with possum, raccoon, deer, anything, a chicken, bird, parakeet, anything you can find to grind up to in a hot tamale with some corn meal and a corn shuck you got a hot tamale.

Walt: Well, fortunately, the winner of the Hot Tamale Cooking Contest, Jefferson Tamales uses ground chuck as their base. But as far as passing out their secret ingredient….

Gerald Jefferson and William Jefferson: Jefferson's Tamales: I can't do that! We can't keep enough.

Walt: King of the festival was Greenville homemade tamale legend, Shine Thornton, and the queen, Florence Signa, who's made over a million salads over the years at Doe's in Greenville.

Home town musician-made-good Steve Azar was right at home performing solo for his friends, and he brought along fellow recording artist Dave Hardin, Emerson Hart, and Walt Wilkins to make the day sound as good as it tasted.

Jade Nixon was the first year's Miss Hot Tamale. She made hew own dress. Which reminds me of the modest response that the organizers of the festival gave out when they had praises heaped upon them for this year's success, to which they replied, "Aw shucks.."

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