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CLARKSDALE, Miss. — They say the language of food is universal, and nothing could be more true about a small business in Mississippi where the hot tamales are the hottest thing in town.

The husband and wife who make them haven’t let the pandemic or age slow them down.

“I started making hot tamales when I was 13 years old,” Eugene Hicks said. “Thirteen was when I made my first hot tamale and I’ll be 77 years old tomorrow, so you can do the math on that.”

He’s known far and wide for his hot tamales, made with love and sold from his restaurant in Clarksdale, appropriately named Hicks’ World Famous Tamales and More.

Eugene and Betty Rose Hicks show off their hot tamales in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Eugene’s wife Betty Rose, the other half of the hot tamale team, started here after 33 years teaching. It’s a strictly a husband and wife operation.

“Just the two of us doing hot tamales right now and that’s it,” Eugene said. “We can’t hardly teach anybody how to ‘do that thang.’”

Eugene dosesn’t have any closely guarded secrets to making his tamales, which he says he does the “old fashioned” way, sometimes taking four days to prepare.

He will say, however, that the best tamales take the best ingredients.

“The best spices you can find,” he said. “I mean, I can get all types of spices but it’s not the real deal.”

Eugene started making tamales at Hicks’ Superette near downtown Clarksdale in 1973. Since 1999, he’s been at another location on South State Street.

A look at the guest book, or the “wall of fame,” shows the widespread success the Hicks have enjoyed with politicians and sports legends from far and wide.

“All colors, all races,” Eugene said. “Some, I didn’t know what they were saying and they didn’t know what I was saying, but at the end of the day everybody was happy.”

Crystal Hicks said she plans on making sure what her father started in this small convenience store in 1973 isn’t forgotten, nor is his contributions to the community, so she too is giving back.

“I would like to revitalize that building downtown and dedicate it to arts, food tasting, just creativity for our young people and our community to have something to share,” Crystal said.

The Hicks said their business, like most other restaurants, is having to adjust to meet COVID restrictions, but their drive-through is operating.