Food

Ward’s Restaurant

wards_logoBack when I was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS, one of the local favorites for burgers was the Ward’s Restaurant on Hardy Street just before you cross the bridge over I-59. Well, the address is technically 101 Thornhill Drive, Hattiesburg, MS, but if you decide to visit Hattiesburg, just stop and ask someone where the Ward’s on Hardy Street is and they’ll get you there. As they say, you can’t miss it.

What I can confirm is that if you’ve never had a Ward’s Chili Dog, a “Big One” with Chili and Cheese or a “Ward’s Quarter” then you’ve lived a sheltered life. So, as soon as you can, find the Ward’s nearest you and order a great burger and frosty mug of homemade root beer and then decide whether I’m telling you the truth.

From the Ward’s website:

Richard and Ed Ward opened the first Ward’s location May 28, 1978. The two brothers rotated shifts with one working early and one working late. It was years before some customers ever realized there were two of them! They thought one hard-working man owned and operated the new concept on his own. The years of hard work and long hours paid off as Ward’s developed its own identity and following of loyal customers. Known for delicious homemade chili and smooth as silk homemade Root beer, Ward’s has grown to 39 locations over the past 35 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

wards_chili_dogThe signature hamburgers are lovingly referred to as the “Big One” and the “Little On.” Dressed with Ward’s homemade chili and signature sauce these favorites are two of the most popular on the menu. The homemade chili is not just used on hamburgers. OH NO! Ward’s chili is served on our own Chili Dogs. What better way to conquer the munchies than with a Big One Combo and a Ward’s Chili Dog on the side!

For those who choose not to indulge in Ward’s Chili there are other options! The Ward’s Quarter is just what your personal trainer would approve of! Lettuce and tomato dress this burger just right to make you feel good about yourself. However, if you insist, there is also a delicious line of salads and wraps available to help you watch your waistline.

From Breakfast, to lunch and on through out the evening Ward’s has something for almost any appetite and to please any taste. New menu concepts include the addition of Sweet Potato Fries and Real Fruit Smoothies. Ward’s is the best of both worlds merging the ole time menu items of years past and the best of whats new.

Tamales

On a recent trip that took my wife and I through Jackson, we stopped for dinner at Jose’s Tamales & Restaurant, one of our favorite haunts located in Pearl, MS, my hometown. As part of the meal I ordered a plate of their shredded pork tamales covered in chile con carne and cheese and ate them taking a bites of tamale and roasted jalapeno pepper. They were awesome and the jalapeno added just the right heat to every forkful.

I realized afterwards that the popularity of tamales in Mississippi was a story that needed to be told here on MadeInMississippi.us. On first glance, you might think that tamales are a surprising thing to find here, but in fact, it makes perfect sense. The ingredients are simple and easily available here: corn meal (masa), pork or beef, cheese, spices and corn husks. The story of how tamales came to Mississippi is debatable, but the popularity of this simple food is undeniably tied to the portability and heartiness of the food which made it perfect for carrying into the fields and woods by workers.

Wikipedia states that tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC and now they are available in various forms and styles all around the world. In the United States, the Mississippi Delta is listed along with various other forms of indigenous tamales.

“In the Mississippi Delta, African Americans developed a spicy tamale made from cornmeal (rather than masa), which is boiled in corn husks.”

An article at Southern Foodways Alliance website, gives readers an in-depth history of tamales in the Mississippi Delta:

Better known for its association with cotton and catfish, the Mississippi Delta has a fascinating relationship with tamales. The history of the hot tamale in this area reaches back to at least the early part of the twentieth century. Reference to the Delta delicacy appears in the song “They’re Red Hot,” which was recorded by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson in 1936. But there is an even earlier reference in the song “Molly Man,” which was recorded by the Reverend Moses Mason under the name Red Hot Ole Mose in 1928.

Many hypothesize that tamales made their way to the Mississippi Delta in the early twentieth century when migrant laborers were brought in from Mexico to work the cotton harvest. The African Americans who shared the fields easily recognized the basic tamale ingredients: corn meal and pork. Others maintain that the Delta’s history with tamales goes back to the U.S.-Mexican War one hundred years earlier, when U.S. soldiers from Mississippi traveled to Mexico and brought tamale recipes home with them. Others argue that tamales have simply always been in the Delta. The Mississippian culture of mound-building Native Americans in the area reaches back thousands of years, with an agriculture based in maize. Tamales have been a portable food of war parties and field workers for millennia. Today, African Americans in the Delta are the primary keepers of the tamale-making tradition. It makes sense, then, that the interaction of African Americans with Mexican migrant laborers explains part of this culinary confluence. Through slavery and sharecropping, tamales have proved to be a viable support system – financially and nutritionally – to rural communities throughout the area.

Within the boundaries of the Mississippi Delta which David L. Cohn, author of God Shakes Creation (1935) defined in his memoir, Where I was Born and Raised (1948), when he wrote, “the Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg.”, tamales are hot properties (pun intended) where recipes are jealously guarded and passed down from one generation to the next and everyone has their favorite style of tamale, dry or sauced. But great tamales can be found as far south as Natchez (like those at Fat Mama’s) and as far east as Pearl (like those at the aforementioned Jose’s). Click here to get a map of the Hot Tamale Trail through the Delta.

I used to work for a guy who owned his own plane and on rare occasions, he tell the pilot to stop in  Greenville, MS to pick a huge order of tamales from Doe’s Eat Place and then fly them back to Meridian. We’d be invited to the break room where there would large tin tomato cans packed full of tamales and we’d eat our fill.

Everyone in Mississippi seems to have their own tamale story, like how they found the “best tamale they ever ate” in some shack or run down convenience store hidden somewhere out in the sticks. And soon after they eat their first tamale, everyone seems to join the quest to find and eat a better hot tamale than they’ve ever had before. The benefit to this quest is that with so many different styles and recipes, there’s always another tamale to try!

Feel free to mention and link to your own favorite tamale place in Mississippi in the comments! Let’s help spread the word about one of the best treats from Mississippi!

 

Chicken

One of the most delightful parts of building this website has been discovering things that really surprise me. As a life-long resident of the State of Mississippi, I have always thought of catfish or timber first when someone mentioned agricultural products. But recently, I found a list of the top 15 Mississippi agricultural products published December, 2013 by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) and was surprised to find one of my favorite foods topping the list!

  • Poultry / Eggs – $2.71 Billion
  • Forestry – $1.17 Billion
  • Soybeans – $993 Million
  • Corn – $631 Million
  • Cotton – $331 Million
  • Cattle/Calves – $289 Million
  • Catfish – $178 Million
  • Hay – $157 Million
  • Hogs – $144 Million
  • Rice – $141 Million
  • Wheat – $126 Million
  • Horticulture Crops – $115 Million
  • Sweet Potatoes – $69 Million
  • Milk – $40 Million
  • Peanuts – $23 Million

Chicken (and eggs) has always been one of my favorite sources of protein and I’m proud to say I’ve never met a chicken I didn’t like. Who knew that eating chicken could be so helpful to my home state!

From Ken Litwin’s article at FarmFlavor.com:

No industry can provide protein for humans at such a reasonable cost as the poultry industry, Mark Leggett says.

The president of the Mississippi Poultry Association is proud to point out that poultry continues to be Mississippi’s top commodity, and farm gate impact numbers – the amount paid to farmers for raising chickens – have been above $2 billion every year since 2000.

“Our state produces chicken for Mississippi residents and also ships to other U.S. states, plus we export to 60 foreign countries,” Leggett says. “Mississippi poultry is well positioned to feed growing populations throughout the world.”

According to the United Nations, the rapidly growing world population will be consuming two-thirds more animal protein by 2050 than it does today. Mississippi already exports more than $300 million annually in poultry sales, with its biggest foreign customers being Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong, Angola and Cuba.

“Poultry in Mississippi accounts for 55,000 direct and indirect jobs, with wages and salaries at around $1.2 billion,” Leggett says. “This state is home to six of the largest chicken broiler companies in the country – Koch Foods, Marshall Durbin Company, Peco Foods, Sanderson Farms,Tyson Foods and Wayne Farms – plus Cal-Maine Foods, the largest egg processor in the world, is based in Mississippi.”

There are 2,000 poultry growers in the state that sell products and services to the six big companies. Among them is Danny Thornton, a Leake County farmer who was raised in the broiler business in central Mississippi. Thornton is considered an expert in the poultry industry, with 37 years of experience that included teaching agriculture at Mississippi State University in the Department of Poultry Science until his retirement in 2012.

The Mississippi Poultry Association has produced a really interesting video on the history of poultry production in Mississippi, and if you want to learn more check out the video below:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb1Mnj8PwWs[/youtube]

Mississippi Cheese Straws

From the website of the Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory:

Founded in 1991 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, where the love of good food and hospitality run deep, Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory® began in the kitchen of the Yerger family with an heirloom family recipe for cheddar cheese straws. When Mom decided to apply her culinary genius in launching our business, she was inspired by the spirit of our dad, a man who loved life and loved good food.

Our mom has since created a variety of savory cheese-straw flavors, as well as creating the concept of the “cookie straw” to delight those who have a taste for the “sweeter things in life.” Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory’s delicious products are baked and shipped fresh daily from our family-owned bakery to thousands of stores and individuals nationally and internationally.

Our classic gourmet straws and cookies have become staples as gifts for every occasion — weddings, corporate events, holidays and more. They are also perfect to be enjoyed as a delectable indulgence — just for you!

Street Address:

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory
741 E 8th Street
Yazoo City, Mississippi 39194

By EMail:

info@mscheesestraws.com

By Phone:

1-800-530-7496
Fax 662-746-7162

Pirouline

If you’ve ever had a chance to taste one of these delicate treats, then you’ll know why we are pretty proud of the fact that these great wafer cookies are produced right here in Mississippi. If you have not tasted a Pirouline, then by all means, visit their website and order some! In fact, order a bunch, because you might just eat the first can by yourself and then you’ll have none to share!

From Pirouline’s Website:

Pirouline makes every moment magic. Pirouline exists because what we do best is make all the small moments in our life a little more special.

The famous Pirouline swirl is your reassurance that you are enjoying the original Pirouline rolled wafers, baked fresh every day right here in Madison, Mississippi. All of those other rolled wafers made in factories overseas (and shipped across the ocean in huge shipping containers) may try to look like Pirouline, but they don’t have our swirl. Or our fresh, delicious taste!

From Wikipedia:

The DeBeukelaer family started making biscuits in Belgium in 1860. A descendant of the original founders in Belgium, the DeBeukelaer Corporation was founded in 1984 by Peter DeBeukelaer, when he established a cookie factory in Madison, Mississippi.

Pirouline made its debut in 1984. A hollow rolled European style wafer with a trademark helical swirl, it was lined with chocolate

In 1987, the biscuit was filled with a chocolate hazelnut creme filling. Over the years, there have been many flavors of creme – French vanilla, strawberry, pumpkin spice, dulce de leche, and lemon.

The most popular Pirouline is a rolled toasted wafer lined with dark chocolate. The other variety, called “Creme de Pirouline,” has the rolled wafer lined with a cream filling rather than chocolate (which comes in chocolate hazelnut, French vanilla, and double chocolate varieties).

Originally sold in a 14 oz tin, the chocolate lined biscuits are always sold in boxes, while the cream-filled are sold in cans.

Birthplace of Barq’s

From Wikipedia:

The Barq’s Brothers Bottling Company was founded in 1890 in the French Quarter of New Orleans, by Edward Charles Edmond Barq and his younger brother, Gaston. The Barq Brothers bottled carbonated water and various soft drinks of their own creation. Early on their most popular creation was an orange-flavored soda called Orangine, which won a gold medal at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois.

Edward Barq moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1897 with his new wife.

The following year he opened the Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works. 1898 is often given as the debut year for what was later to be known as “Barq’s root beer,” but some sources say this particular product was not produced until some two years later.

For many decades Barq’s was not marketed as a “root beer.” This was in part a desire to avoid legal conflict with the Hires Root Beer company, which was attempting to claim a trademark on the term “root beer.” It was also due to differences from other root beers at the time. The base was a sarsaparilla drink of the style of the late 19th century, in a formulation with caffeine, less sugar, and higher carbonation than other brands, though with less of a foamy “head.” It was decided to market the soft drink simply as Barq’s.

The traditional slogan was the simple affirmation “Drink Barq’s. It’s good.”

For a time it was marketed with the slogan “Is it root beer?” before the company decided to market the product as such.

The Barq’s brand was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 1995.

Weidmann’s Restaurant

Meridian, Mississippi has always been steeped in tradition, and one of the longest running traditions around is having a great lunch or dinner at Weidmann’s Restaurant.

Since 1870, generations of families have gathered around Weidmann’s tables to sample some of the greatest food and beverages available. Starting with the freshest ingredients, tried and true recipes and just a little bit of tender, loving care, Weidmann’s has always specialized in high quality comfort food.

With respect for the history of Weidmann’s and with an eye on the future, owner Charles Frazier has combined the best of both worlds and created a restaurant experience full of surprises and flavors while retaining the comfortable, cozy warmth that has always been a part of Weidmann’s charm.

Weidmann’s is located in downtown Meridian, Mississippi at the intersection of 22nd Avenue & 4th Street, between 2nd Street & 4th Street.

Reservations are not required, but if you’d like to make reservations, you can contact Weidmann’s by telephone or use their online reservation form.

Visit Weidmann’s Online!