It is hard to believe this food, often associated more with Mexico would be of importance to the South. Tamales, which are cornmeal, beef or pork and spices wrapped inside a corn husk have been a menu mainstay in the Mississippi Delta for much of the twentieth century, just as much as catfish. They were sold in the 1920's out of lard buckets along the side of the road, wrapped in newspapers. Tamales came to the Delta when Hispanic labourers began making their way up from Texas and Arkanasas to work the cotton harvest. African Americans in the field would have cold food by lunchtime; however, the Hispanic labourer's food would still be hot due to the corn husk retaining the heat.
All Things Southern
This is a deep fried fritter, consisting of cornmeal, flour, egg and other seasonings that is traditionally served with fried catfish. There are many stories depicting the origins. The origin tale most often told is that the name came from the practice of tossing fried bits of cornmeal to hush yapping dogs around the campfire.
Pronounced: 'jahm-buh-LIE-uh' or 'jum-buh-LIE-uh'
This rice based dish was introduced to the local area of Louisiana in the 1700s. It is similar to Spanish Paella and the name Jambalaya is derived from the Spanish word 'jamon' for ham.
Jambalaya is a mixture of meat, rice and seasonings and can be a combination of ham, chicken, sausage, shrimp or oysters, seasoned with onions, garlic, pepper and other Cajun spices. Rice has been an important crop in the South for several hundred years. Louisiana began producing rice in late 1889 and is today one of the major rice producing states.
The king cake tradition came to New Orleans around 1870 from French settlers and dates back to the twelfth century in France. This cake is made during Mardi Gras season and despite contrary belief, Mardi Gras is actually a religious celebration. King cake is made from a cinnamon filled dough formed and baked in the shape of a circle or large oval. It is then decorated with three different sanding sugars, which all have their own representation. Gold is for power, purple is for justice and green is for faith. The cakes are prepared for the period between the Twelfth Night, or January 6th (twelve nights after Christmas) and Ash Wednesday. The practice of placing a small plastic baby inside the cake began in the mid 1900s as a symbol of the birth of Christ. It is customary for the person who finds the baby in the cake to purchase the next king cake and host the next year's Mardi Gras party.
Lard is an animal fat produced by rendering the fat portions of a pig. Due to concerns associated with saturated fats and cholesterol, many people have discontinued the use of lard in any of their recipes and opted for shortening, butter or oil alternatives. Most true Southern cooks will swear that you can only make good flaky biscuits and cornbread by using lard. Lard does not contain any trans fats.