The History behind Pasquale's Tamales
Have you been wondering how an Italian family
came to be making Mexican tamales? Well,
it all started like this...
Pasquale St. Columbia came to Helena, Arkansas from Sicily in the late 1800's. Pasquale visited the cotton fields and sawmills along the levee, delivering foods as a merchant from 1892 to 1912. He was a peddler marketing this wares to the immigrant farm workers, many of whom were Mexican, that worked along the river.
Pasquale never met a stranger and made friends fast. He was very jolly, and friendly and talkative. Because they could understand each other's languages, the cultural exchange between Pasquale and the Mexican immigrants he met and befriended was easy.
Pasquale learned to prepare and eat tamales from the Mexican farm workers. He shared his recipe for Italian spaghetti and, in turn, they taught him to make the traditional Mexican hot tamales.
Pasquale adopted "Sam" as his American name and prospered as a taxi driver in Helena. During the Depression, he built a commercial building. In the early 1940's, he rented space to Maggie and Eugene Brown for the Elm Street Tamale Shop and gave them his tamale recipe.
For twenty years, the couple ran a successful tamale business, selling tamales in the early years for one tamale for a nickel and three tamales for 10 cents. In the 1960's, the Brown Family died out and the business lay dormant for the next thirty years.
Over the years, tamales had simmered in the back of the minds of Joe and Joyce St. Columbia, Sr., Pasquale's son and daughter-in-law. When Joe decided to retire from his full-time beer distributorship business, the couple decided to resurrect the old Elm Street Tamale recipe.
Joyce, a good home cook who always harbored dreams of owning a restaurant, fiddled with the recipe until she came up with a blend of seasonings she calls "middle-of-the-road-hot" and a sirloin beef filling. They used no fillers or preservatives in their tamales.
The couple had a kitchen facility at the beer company so they decided to make the tamales there. And so it was that Pasquale's Tamales was born.
It took Joyce three days to produce the 200 to 300 dozen tamales that they made every week. The first day, Joyce simmered it, ground it, and then seasoned it. The second day, the meat and cornmeal dough were placed in a machine that turned the two into perfectly formed tamales. The expensive machine would also wrap tamales in parchment paper, but that's not the way Joyce and Joe did it.
The tamales were refrigerated until the next day when employees Mamie and Alberta wrapped each tamale in a corn shuck. Using a long skinny strip from the corn shucks, they tied the tamales into bundles of three.
Next the tamales were slowly simmered for six hours before being flash-frozen. Residents of Helena could get the tamales from the factory, but the vast majority were shipped by an overnight service.
After watching their customers slurp up the cooking liquid and chew on the wrappers, the couple penned their slogan- "tastes so good you'll suck the shuck."
Following along in the family tradition of cooking after his parents retired, Pasquale's Tamales is now owned by Joe St. Columbia, Jr.
The tamale recipe remains unchanged, using only natural foods of the highest quality and special seasonings. The hot tamales are blended to perfection with no fillers, preservatives or additives.
Doing things the old fashioned way, Pasquale's Tamales are made of high quality beef and cornmeal, well seasoned in balanced proportions and hand-rolled in selected corn shucks. They are tied with shuck ribbons, three to a bundle, and packaged by the dozen.
With no preservatives, Pasquale's Tamales are fully cooked and quickly frozen to preserve their superior taste, then shipped overnight nationwide in reusable foam containers. Pasquale's offers a gourmet tamale made with tradition and heritage from the Delta heartland.
DID YOU KNOW... Pasquale's Tamales received the Presidential
Seal of Approval!!
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