Forget grape salad: Who eats turkey tamales for Thanksgiving?

Tamales and Jalapeno Cornbread Dressing. 2006 photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
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Tamales and Jalapeno Cornbread Dressing. 2006 photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

grapesalad

Thanksgiving is a week away, but the bickering has already begun.

Yesterday’s New York Times food section was dedicated to the United States of Thanksgiving, 52 recipes representing every state, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The challenges of putting together a package like this, especially with recipes and photos for every dish, are great, more than the average cook or writer could probably imagine, so we’ve got to give kudos to the team for taking it on.

But by now, you’ve probably seen something about #grapegate, the uproar in Minnesota (and beyond) about the Times concluding that their state’s Thanksgiving dish was a concoction called Grape Salad made with grapes, sour cream, brown sugar and, if you’re lucky, pecans.

Linda Holmes at NPR, who lived in Minnesota for a decade, penned the definitive takedown yesterday, explaining that the problem isn’t the salad itself, it’s people on the coasts who write about people who do not live on the coasts who like to lump the non-coast folks together and then grasp at straws to try to differentiate them in the name of BuzzFeed-inspired click bait.

In the past, the Times has crafted some excellent maps and interactive pieces using actual scientific data about college football and baseball loyalties or dialect, but to find further proof of how much they missed the proverbial map on this one, consider Texas’ featured dish: turkey tamales.

Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years can tell you that we don’t start eating tamales until after Thanksgiving, perhaps using the leftover turkey inside tamales at a tamalada the following week.

Tamales and Jalapeno Cornbread Dressing. 2006 photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tamales and Jalapeno Cornbread Dressing. 2006 photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

However, former Austinite (and Statesman columnist) and current NYT writer Martha Rose Shulman wrote up the intro for this recipe, quoting Cyndi Hall of Tamale Place of Texas in Leander as saying that they have a “big market for Thanksgiving tamales,” but that’s news to me.

I’d bet that far more Texans, or at least Austinites, make some version of tamal dressing, such as this Tamales and Jalapeño Cornbread Dressing from Jack Gilmore, one of the most popular recipes published under Kitty Crider’s tenure at the Statesman, or a less fussy recipe from Mary Faulk Koock’s “The Texas Cookbook.” (Lisa Fain adapted that recipe for her website, the Homesick Texan.)

I was also surprised to see that there wasn’t some kind of ambrosia salad in that Times interactive, which has certainly appeared on every Thanksgiving table I’ve ever sat at, both here and in Missouri.

So, do you eat tamales (turkey or otherwise) on Thanksgiving? What regional dish should represent Texas on a United States of Thanksgiving map?


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