When Monica Mead — owner of the popular Tamale Girl stand at the Burlington Farmers Market — let people know she was planning to leave town, she was surprised to learn how many people coveted her spot on the corner of St. Paul and College. “An amazing number came up and said, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about the business,’” she dishes.
But very few were interested in whipping up the cornhusk-wrapped treats for which Mead is famous. “Tamales are, truthfully, a pain in the ass to make,” she says. “They wanted to make burritos or tacos, which are easier.”
Her planned successor, who can’t be named here because the deal is not yet finalized, was in the minority — he wanted to take the tamale challenge. “He said, ‘I know it’s hard work, but I wanna do it,’” Mead recalls. If all goes as planned, she’ll teach this “very cool young guy” her recipes so he’ll be ready to start cooking for the first winter market in November. Will the Tamale Boy keep the business’ feminine moniker? That seems to be the plan. “I think it’s pretty cheeky,” Mead says.
Although the petite cook is relocating to the other side of the globe — New Zealand — she says she chose the island because it’s “like Vermont, but warmer. There’s great wine, great food and great coffee everywhere you go.” There are other perks, too. “It’s so civilized that no matter how small a town you go to, there’s always a signpost for a public restroom,” says Mead.
Will Mead miss anything about Vermont, other than her loyal customers? “John Kimmich’s beer from The Alchemist Pub & Brewery,” she says. In her view, the Kiwis “don’t exactly have the beer thing down.”