Tamales and the Blues in Greenville

Our next stop after Little Rock was going to be New Orleans but we decided to overnight in Greenville, Mississippi to break the trip.  Our overnight was at the Washington County Convention Center, a huge facility just outside town with water and 50 amp electric.

It didn’t take long to decide we’d spend an extra day exploring Greenville since we’d happened upon the Delta Hot Tamale Festival held annually in mid October.  This 3 day weekend features local and regional art, music and tamale makers from around the south.

The history of the hot tamale in the Mississippi Delta reaches back to at least the early twentieth century.  Some hypothesize that tamales made their way to the Delta when migrant laborers from Mexico arrived to work the cotton harvest.  African Americans who labored alongside Mexican migrants recognized the basic tamale ingredients:  corn meal and port.  Others maintain that the Delta history with tamales goes back to the U.S.-Mexican War one hundred years earlier, when U.S. soldiers traveled to Mexico and brought tamale recipes home with them.  Others still argue that tamales date to the Mississippian culture of mound-building Native Americans.

The music of the Delta embraced the tamale as early as 1928 when Reverend Moses Mason, recording as Red Hot Ole Moses, cut “Molly Man”.   Then, Legendary Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” in 1936 furthered the link between tamales and the blues!

Another Greenville landmark was our choice for dinner after getting the RV parked.  Doe’s Eat Place was established in 1941 by Dominick “Bid Doe” Signa and his wife, Mamie.  Doe’s father moved to Greenville in 1903 and opened a grocery store in the building that now serves as the restaurant.  At first Signa ran a honky-tonk,  strictly for blacks, in the front part of the store.  Because of racial segregation it was socially unacceptable for whites to come into Doe’s.  When a local white doctor began to stop at Doe’s for a meal between house calls, Doe would serve him steaks in the rear of the store.  As word-of-mouth spread about the steaks Doe decided to start a restaurant in the rear of the building.  The restaurant has been racially integrated since the beginning and is still run from the building in which it started…a relatively small and shabby building in the middle of a downscale neighborhood.

The menu is simple….Hot Tamales (get them with homemade chili), house salad, steaks (the Porterhouse is more than enough for 2) and fried or boiled shrimp both served with homefries!

After dinner we headed over to the Walnut Street Blues Bar.

Next morning found us taking in the Festival in downtown Greenville.  It seems most of the town turned out to listen to music on several stages set up around town, eat hot tamales and browse crafts and local art.  Sometimes the most enjoyable parts of an RV adventure are the things and people you simple stumble upon while making your way down the road.