Food memories of tamales of my youth

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2021

Someone told me yesterday, “Food memories are strong. You don’t forget the good ones.”

We were talking about foods from our childhoods that we didn’t necessarily “like” now that we’re adults, but we still crave from time to time because of the nostalgia that accompanies them.

Someone else told me yesterday that I look like I could be the bouncer at a bouncer convention. But that’s a completely different story.

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I love Mexican food — I mean real Mexican food. I like a lot of Americanized versions, too, but the authentic stuff is the best. Tamales, for instance, are wonderful. Everyone makes them differently and prefers different fillings, toppings, etc. I like them pretty much any way I’ve ever had them.

But tamales are a very regional thing — they can change dramatically just by locale. In Mississippi and Louisiana, for instance, there are Delta tamales, traditional  tamales, northeast Mississippi tamales and Zwolle tamales, just to name a few.

Delta tamales tend to have the masa and meat mixed and are what I would call a “wet” tamale, and look gray. They are typically served with chili on top. Zwolle tamales are a product of northwest Louisiana and come from a Mexican-Apache background. They are wetter than traditional masa-encased pork tamales, but can easily be finger foods.

The ones I grew up eating, however, are from northeast Mississippi and look more like meat cigars. Wrapped and steamed in foil. I absolutely loved these things.

Now that I’m a half-century along in this life, I much prefer a traditional Mexican-style tamal, but there’s just something so nostalgically wonderful about these tamales of my childhood days.

But nostalgia honestly only goes so far. You could never mistake tamales from Dilworth’s Tamale Shop in Corinth (the place to go, by the way) for a Mexican dish. It’s not the “real thing” if we’re talking tamales de Mexico.

Copies, knock-offs, etc. can be great in a lot of areas of life, but let’s be careful not to ever confuse any of that for the “real thing.” Reality really is a more grown-up thing, but, hey — we’re grown ups, right?

Next time you’re up near Corinth, make a detour to Dilworth’s. It’s great.

Oh, and while you’re in the Crossroads City, ask about slug burgers!

Brett Campbell can be reached at