Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A surprise in every taco

This morning I showed Félix a photo I took of an Icelandic horse, a rather stumpy but powerful fellow with a beautiful long mane. I thought I'd shock Félix by telling him that some people in Iceland eat horsemeat.

It's what's for dinner. 
Hah! You have to get up early in the morning to shock Félix. 

Sure, he said, in Mexico you never know what street vendors use for their taco fillings—meat from horses, various parts of the cattle head and even bull penises that are called tacos de viril, or roughly "virile tacos." A euphemism if there ever was one.

I thought Félix was putting me on but then I remembered that fellow blogger Felipe Zapata has spotted penis tacos for sale in Pátzcuaro. I don't recall if he sampled one. 

Félix expounded that you can make tacos from goat meat, but male goats need to be relieved of their testicles a few weeks in advance otherwise the meat can taste pretty foul. He didn't say what modifications are required before preparing female goats.

The possibility of dog tacos came to me several months ago while reading a really funny book called "I'll Sell You a Dog," by Juan Pablo Villalobos. It was a running gag about the dogs-for-tacos trade in the capital. The book was fiction but apparently some folks in Mexico City believe dog meat tacos are for real. Félix doubts it.

Tacos stuffed with various parts of a cow's head, or tacos de cabeza, definitely are sold in the capital. Specialty head tacos might be sesos (brains); lengua (tongue); cachete (cheek); trompa (lips) and even ojos (eyes).

There's hardly anything more phony or arbitrary than picky eating and I am a repeat offender.

At a la-di-dah restaurant in Mexico City several years ago I sampled, with great hesitation, beef carpaccio, which is seasoned raw meat, as an appetizer. It was tasty though now I wonder which part of the cow it came from, or if it was a cow at all. 

In Iceland, I was put off by horse meat but readily ordered beef. I once argued, lamely, that horses looked noble and friendly, not suitable for eating. But what about our bovine friends? Granted, they don't look too bright but cows can hardly be considered conniving or perfidious.

Pork, which I really like, comes from an animal that is supposed to be quite bright and friendly, and even cute in the right light. I almost gagged, though, when a restaurant in San Miguel served me suckling pig which I realized, too late, was a tiny baby pig, with hardly enough meat to bother eating.

Try it, you'll like it. 
In Iceland we also took a pass on eating puffin, an adorable quail-size bird that Icelanders consume with gusto. We opted instead for chicken, which have more meat and are not as lovable.

It wasn't until a month ago that I sampled octopus, which I had avoided because the sight of their suction cups turned me off. I finally cut a piece off a small octopus, looked away and put it in my mouth. It was good.

Stew and I have been trying to broaden our menus, with Stew way ahead of me so far.

He even ate guinea pig in Peru, though he had the kitchen debone it to avoid the traditional road-kill presentation of a little animal only slightly larger than a rat, feet and all, its eyes staring at you from the plate.

With some disgust on his face Stew confirmed that yes, it tasted like chicken. I took his word for it.

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12 comments:

  1. Ay, Al! You've practically written my joke for me.

    Q: What do they serve at the Korean/Mexican restaurant?

    A: Tacos al Pastor Alemán.

    Of course one needs to know Spanish to get it, Pastor Alemán being Spanish for "German Shepard," and tacos al pastor being a very popular dish made (ostensibly) of pork.

    As an aside, my parents are from Denmark, and there they eat horse too. Or at least used to when my parents were growing up. And apparently the same is true for France.

    Frankly, if you're willing to eat some animals, why not many? I had my first experience eating goat in 2014 during my Great Mexican Road Trip, and it was fantastic. I was sorry I had waited so long. And I'd eagerly try puffin, though I draw the line at invertebrates. Once in Taxco, my ex, "F," ordered the humiles (ant eggs) while the rest of us marveled with a mix of curiosity and horror. But the next day he was the only one who was sick, so the rest of us felt vindicated for our squeamishness.

    In any case, there in Mexico, people eat all kinds of unusual stuff. Maybe you can give it a try and report back.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where there are no local dishes that give us the heebie-jeebies.

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    1. That's a really good joke. I'll tell it to Félix.
      I tried ant eggs here, I think they called them "escamoles" and they were essentially tasteless. The same thing with corn smut, aka as... I can't remember. As for the crickets or whatever that they eat in Oaxaca, they're ok, crunchy and rather salty... as long as they are camouflaged in something else.

      Buen provecho...

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    2. I hope Felix at least got a chuckle out of the joke.

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  2. I did not sample the penis tacos. Horrors. And after reading this, I think I will be a total vegetarian for the rest of my life.

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    Replies
    1. Let's not overreact. You just have to be careful and have your wife ask questions from the waiter before you order anything.

      al

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  3. In the end, it's all edible protein. Take your pick.
    My wife and I are suckers for octopus.
    I'm a big fan of Caldo de Cabeza. In fact, I hope to eat some this morning.
    I also try to have menudo at least once every two weeks.
    But I draw the line at bull dick tacos.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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    Replies
    1. This is a family blog, Dan. So let's call them tacos viril, especially to people who don't know what that means. Caldo de Cabeza may be a possibility as long as it doesn't contain any recognizable parts, like eyeballs. I had bone marrow soup and it was really good.

      al

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  4. I'm so glad I'd already eaten breakfast before reading this. I've been in parts of the world that eat dogs (indeed raise them for food), cats, and of course various insects. And while I love chicken and pork I draw the line at eating the feet, which I did once (chicken feet) in Hong Kong and will spare you the story (shudder). Yes, becoming a vegetarian sounds like a good idea this morning.

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    Replies
    1. Chicken feet can be challenging. I once went to a Chinese restaurant in Chicago for their dim sum and the chicken feet were definitely a turn off. I think they even had nails. Too anatomically correct for me.

      al

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  5. The Durch eat horese meat as well, but it is a deli meat smoked and very thinky sliced, delicious! I'm pretty sure I have eaten dog...

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    1. Peter: What do you mean "you think you've eaten dog"? Didn't you ask? You Dutch folks are just too gullible.

      al

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  6. The Spousal Unit and I have been vegetarian (not vegan) for four years now. We had had ethical & environmental concerns for years, but what put us over the edge was the high price of meat in Canada. Now that we’re in Mexico, there are fewer vegetarian options, but I’m still comfortable with my choice.

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