Summer in Texas must be hotter, steamier, sunnier and all around more disgusting than around here. And yet Texans continue to consume vast quantities of sour cream and cheese and fried tortillas. Clearly they are people of greater fortitude than we Midwesterners. Because when Gut Check dropped in at Nachomama's (9643 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-961-9110) on Saturday, the place was as empty as we'd ever seen it. That is to say, at a little after noon, there were still some empty tables.
Now, it's true, if we were looking for something that wouldn't sit heavily in the pit of our stomach, we would have insisted on going somewhere other than Nachomama's. But some things sit less heavily than others, which is what led us to the green tamale, listed at the top of the specials board. Hey, it wasn't deep-fried. And it was spicy!
In the wonderful book River Town (which always makes us want to run off and join the Peace Corps because it sounds like such a rich and rewarding experience), Peter Hessler explains why Sichuan hot pot is so popular in the summer: Once the peppers burn up your insides, the air in comparison feels cool and refreshing. We figured Tex-Mex must operate on the same principle.
The tamales arrived at our table swimming in a sea of greenish-brown tomatillo salsa, topped with a lid of melted cheese and accented with a dollop of sour cream. The salsa was pleasantly spicy, and the flavor blended nicely with the corn of the tamale and the smoky chicken inside. (It's also available with pork.)
Extra bonus: It didn't require too much effort to eat. The whole thing fell apart with a little pressure from a plastic fork, and we didn't have to chew very much.
The green tamale doesn't have quite the same effect as Sichuan hot pot. It's more psychological: Instead of making the air feel cooler, it just distracts us from thinking about the weather and complaining. Which, as some annoying person usually tells us at least once every heat wave, are the two factors that make us so miserable in the first place. By that logic, we should make the green tamale a permanent fixture in our diet until fall.