The tamale really is an odd little food item. Stewed meat is wrapped in some sort of mushy corn meal and rolled up in inedible corn husks. Don’t try to eat the whole thing like a dolmathakia, the Greek delicacy of stuffed grape leaves. There are better ways to get your daily fiber allotment. But to some foodies, especially those who grew up eating tamales, they’re an object of obsession. Most folks probably associate tamales with Mexican food and those tamales usually use masa flour as the main ingredient and are served at both breakfast and dinner. In the Mississippi Delta, however, a uniquely American brand of tamales is made using cornmeal and pork, beef, chicken or turkey. These tamales are often packed by the dozen in plastic jars or coffee cans and sold on the front counter of convenience stores or gas stations.
When it comes to regional food, arguably no part of the United States is more evocative than the American South. When someone says, “Southern food,” images of fried chicken, shrimp & grits, pecan pie and/or country ham spring to mind and can immediately make your mouth water.
Back in 20th century America, when life was slow and small towns looked like Norman Rockwell paintings, families flocked to their local butcher. The shops eventually died out by the end of the century, a victim of the modern world’s need for speed and convenience, but they are making a comeback, thanks in part to the popularity of high-protein diets. This time around, however, the farm-to-table movement has given rise to a new breed of butcher shop/restaurant, with chefs breaking down the animal themselves. This trend is sweeping the country, but arguably no place is doing it better than the Magnolia State of Mississippi, where several culinary artists are carving and cooking cows, chickens and more to foodies’ delight.
It’s that time of year again, when we deck out in red, white and blue to celebrate our nation’s independence. Virginia is indisputably the birthplace of our country: it’s home to the first permanent colony of settlers at Jamestown and played a leading role in the American Revolution. Nicknamed the “mother of presidents,” Virginia was also the birthplace of eight of our leaders, including George Washington, our first president, and Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president—who not only played a role in the birth of our country, he helped give birth to modern American cuisine.
The best Southern food isn’t always where you’d expect. While the region certainly does have its award-winning restaurants, some of the best dishes come from humble roadside eateries and even inside gas stations. While not entirely a Southern phenomenon, we’ve certainly perfected the gas station eats. And each state offers something different.