Local Color

Part of the Tucson supermarket shopping experience is the man or woman standing near the entrance, whispering “fresh tamales” as you walk by. I’ve never seen a supermarket employee – or a cop – harass these vendors, and that’s a good thing. I’m not so naive as to believe they actually make these tamales at home, but I have to say the tamales they sell are fresh indeed, far better than the tamales for sale inside the grocery store.

Tamale Man

Tamale Man

When I lived in Anchorage, no one ever hustled fresh salmon outside the Safeway. Nor, in Honolulu, do Hawaiians whisper “fresh pineapple” to passing strangers. So I assumed these tamale entepreneurs were unique to the Southwest, perhaps unique to Tucson. But when I told a relative about them, she told me her mother used to buy fresh tamales from street peddlers in Missouri back in the 1950s. Caramba!Okay, so maybe this isn’t a big deal. But the tamales here – the shredded beef ones, anyway – always have a Spanish olive tucked inside. Do your tamales have that?

Damn, now I’m all hungry . . .

Addemdum, Saturday, Nov 13: Every year the local paper publishes a “Best of Tucson” list. Last year the list included this entry: “Tamale lady in front of Bookmans at Grant and Campbell.”

© 2004 – 2008, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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