< Back to Oral History project: Hot Tamale Trail
Robert Stewart, owner of Stewart’s Quick Mart in Cleveland, Mississippi, has been making and selling hot tamales since 1992. But he has been eating them since he was a kid. Robert’s grandmother, Lela Mae Killen, from New Orleans, had a tamale recipe of her own. She made them for her family to eat and put them up in jars to stock her pantry. When Robert was looking for a way to put a little extra money in his pocket, he turned to his grandmother’s recipe. But he made it his own. Robert has crafted beef and chicken tamales, but he makes more turkey-filled hot tamales these days. Regardless of the filling, Robert says that the key to a good hot tamale is in the spice. He puts spices in the meal, the meat, and the water used for simmering. The result is a bright red hot tamale, one that his grandmother would be proud of.