Knocked naked in Natchez
My wife, Linda and I completed our trip through Mississippi at Natchez, the southern end of the 444- mile national parkway that connects Natchez on the Mississippi with Nashville on the Tennessee. At 1 pm, 995 miles from Columbia, it was 101 degrees as we drove up to Fat Mama's (www.fatmamastamales.com ).This famous restaurant, one of the 1000 Places To See
Before You Die, was on the bluff overlooking the Mother of All Rivers, the Mississippi. We were greeted by Briton Gammill, who, along with her husband, leased the two- room log cabin in 1968 and began selling hot tamales and margaritas to those brave souls who sailed the river between Memphis and New Orleans.
Briton said tamales (under another name) originated with the ancient Natchez Indians. They rolled corn pancakes around beans and peppers, dipped them in heavy gravy, and served them to the French explorers who paddled by in search of furs and healthy women. As could have been expected, the Frenchmen ate all the food, stole the women, and fled to New Orleans, leaving the Natchez with small pox and syphilis.
By the time the Spanish arrived in 1779 to establish a colonial capital on the Mississippi, the Natchez were no more. Only their mounds and a few tamales remained. The Spanish laid claim to the land and the tamales, the latter they took back to Mexico and claimed as original Mexican food. The rest is history.
Linda and I ordered Gringo Pies (tamales smothered with chili, cheese, onions, and jalapeños). After one bite, Linda gasped and grabbed her face in pain. Briton, knowing from experience what had happened, quickly slid us a Knock- You- Naked Margarita and two straws. No wonder the French stole the Indian women and the Spanish lost their North American colonies.
As we sweated into recovery, Briton lamented that the National Park Service was extending the Natchez Trace through their property and was paying them to move Mama's across the street. We "put our clothes back on" and left with a jar of Fire & Ice Pickles, a Fat Mama's T- shirt, and a wonderful cultural experience.