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Hit the Trail

Y

ou never know what to expect when approaching a Delta tamale vendor. Their wares may be mild or red hot. They may be filled with pork, beef, chicken, or turkey. They may be steamed in corn husks (colloquially known as shucks) or boiled in parchment paper. Their stand might even be closed for deer season, but if the owner is around, one thing you can count on is friendly service and a willingness to talk. People love to tell the story of their tamales. Just don’t ask for the secret family recipe. Of all the places to begin the journey of a thousand tamales, we kicked it off at Doe’s Eat Place in Oxford, Miss. The original restaurant is still in Greenville, Miss., but Charles Signa, son of the original Dominick “Doe” Signa, brought their family’s famous steaks and tamales to Oxford in 2001. Doe’s serves their parchment-wrapped tamales with crackers, Tabasco, and the

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Y’ALL • THE MAGAZINE OF SOUTHERN PEOPLE

optional side of hearty chili. Signa says they went to parchment paper in the mid’70s when federal agents caught the drug cartels smuggling marijuana in boxes of corn shucks and thereafter made them almost impossible to import. Doe’s delicious tamales are not too spicy, but the heat is present, and their chili makes an excellent topping. Signa eats his with ketchup. Our next stop was Hicks’ World Famous Hot Tamales & More in Clarksdale, Miss. Eugene and Betty Hicks have been making tamales in Clarksdale for over 40 years. Eugene was 17 when he rolled his first one, taught by a man named Acy Ware, and he’s been making them ever since. Hicks’ tamales are spicy and warm, extruded from a sausage machine modified to Eugene’s specifications, hand-rolled in corn shucks, and served with crackers and Tabasco. Eugene has served what he calls his “old-fashioned,

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2007 • Y’ALL

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tamale trail  

yall magazine, feature articl

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