Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Eating Local Delicacies

When we travel, we get a kick out of going in the local grocery markets and produce stands. We look for food products with which we are not familiar. We always find something of interest.
Mexican Groceries

A few years back, we were in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico and had picked up some nice pepper ristras at the outdoor market and cruised the local grocery stores looking for unusual taste treats.
Pepper Ristra

We had found a Mexican food that was new to us, something called menudo, some new hot sauces and salsa verde plus, we'd picked up some wine and cheese and crusty bread for a snack as we headed north for Taos. Kaitlin and the Bubba were with us and we were enjoying poking around the back roads of New Mexico as it is my favorite western state.

We happened to notice a little sign for a state park we hadn't seen on the map so we turned up the mountain road and decided we'd check it out. While we mostly stay in hotels, we do always carry a small tent, a two burner Coleman cook stove, four collapsible chairs (the dog has his own) and a collapsible cocktail table (one must be civilized even in the woods) for impromptu camping opportunities.
Coleman stove

Up into the back country we went until we came upon this lovely campground set in the pines with sites all along a tumbling creek. Charming! Of course, we decided to pitch the tent and spend a night tucked into the pine forest so we could sleep on the dense, fragrant carpet of pine needles next to the rushing water. We didn't have many provisions but we did have bread and wine and cheese and some cans of that Mexican stuff we'd bought. We could eat light and just enjoy the scenic beauty of the special place we'd found.

I got out the picnic basket and set the table and looked for the can opener. I sent Kait and DH off to look for wood and got out the bag o'groceries and opened a can of
genuine menudo.
Canned Menudo

I could tell it contained a tomato sauce, some herbs, and hominy, maybe beans? but I really had no idea what else was in that can. I started to warm it on the Coleman. I put the bread and cheese on the table and poured a couple of glasses of wine. I began to notice a foul odor and chastised the dog for cutting one.

About this time, W4D arrived back at the camp with a big armload of wood for an evening fire. I suggested he take The Bubba for a walk and I continued to keep an eye on Kait down the hill picking up tinder while I stirred the pot of menudo.

Something really smelled foul. I checked the bottoms of my feet, peered under the picnic table for dead carcasses and looked all around the area. Suddenly, it occurred to me that what was in the pot was making the stench.

I dipped a spoon into the sauce and touched my tongue to it. Euuuu! Disgusting! Quickly, I put some in a bowl as W4D was walking back toward our pretty little camp. By now, Kait had given up the search for wood and was wading in the creek bed down the hill. I called down to her and told her to be back at camp in 5 minutes for supper.

"Here, eat your menudo while it is hot." Keeping a straight face, I plunked the bowl in front of W4D and started cutting chunks of bread.

W4D will eat anything and at the time he was a heavy smoker. He must not have been able to smell it. He smiled at me. I smiled back ever so sweetly and he took a big spoonful.

His eyes grew large, his cheeks pooched out like a blow fish and he spun around and spat the menudo onto the ground. I, laughing like a fiend, made him clean it up. He gathered his spew into a paper napkin and tossed it into the fire pit. About that time, I noticed Kait coming up the path carrying an armload of tiny sticks and twigs for her contribution to the fire. She popped down her tinder by the fire ring and settled at the table. That child always had a hollow leg an she was an adventurous eater.

"What is this, Mom?"

"It's authentic Mexican stew, it's called Menudo," I said.

"Cool." Kait took a big bite, swallowed without chewing and had a second spoonful in her mouth when the stench hit her. A look of disgust spread across her face, at which time she jumped up, ran to the nearest tree and spewed.

"That is SO dis-GUST-ing!" she coughed and gagged.

W4D and I were laughing our butts off. We all three decided to give it to The Bubba. We sat the bowl on the ground and carried him over to it. He sniffed, turned tail and ran back to his chair. No one would eat the menudo, not even the dog. Everywhere we went, we saw it advertised, on restaurant marques, at supermarkets, at neighborhood stands. Who knew it would taste and smell like that? Ugh!

We decided we had better dig a hole and bury the stuff since we were afraid it might attract a bear or something. Anything that stinky could probably draw critters from miles away. We buried the menudo remains while Kait was scrubbing her tongue with her toothbrush. We dined that evening on the loaf of bread, the hunk of cheese and a lot of wine. Kait had mostly cookies and Co-Cola.

We brought home the other cans of menudo and kept them for a while. I kindly offered them for supper every few weeks until we tossed the cans once and for all. Kaitlin still speaks of the time we tricked her into eating menudo.

Just in case you don't know what is in menudo, the prime ingredient is tripe. Tripe is the stomach lining of the cow. Now a cow has four stomachs so maybe there are four grades of menudo. Apparently, some cooks like to toss in a calf's foot, too. Or, you can buy it by the can like we did here at the Mexican Grocery.

Speaking of tripe, the first time I went to visit W4D's aunts and uncles in Trenton, New Jersey, they prepared for me, a special traditional dinner, Trippa alla Genovese. That was years before the menudo experience and I wouldn't eat the Italian version either. I just pushed it around my big rim soup bowl for an hour while everyone else ate.

Apparently, most cultures who eat cows, eat tripe. You can read about the various dishes here. Even Philly has it's traditional tripe dish of Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup. Bleccch!

The only, and I mean ONLY way I will eat tripe is in Andouille (pronounced ahn-DOO-ee or ahn-DWEE when said quickly), a spicy heavily smoked sausage made from pork. Several variations exist that use different combinations of pork meat, fat, intestines and tripe.

Originally from France or Germany (the exact origin is uncertain), the most well known variety in the US is the Cajun style. French andouille is traditionally made of pork intestines and tripe. It is heavily seasoned and smoked though not as spicy as the Cajun variety. The German andouilles are made only in certain regions of Germany. They are made from remaining intestines and casings that are seasoned and pulled through a larger casing then smoked.

Cajun style andouille is the spiciest of all the variants. Made of pork meat (usually butt or shank) and fat, they are seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic. The sausages are smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane for up to seven or eight hours at approximately 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius).

In Italy a variation derived from Andouille is known in Calabria (a southern region of Italy) as 'ndulla. It is similar to Cajun's andouille but with more red pepper. 'Ndulla is smoked over and seasoned. The 'ndulla origin probably is connected with the Calabria French domination, from the year 1060 until nearly all the 12th century.

Andouille is also an insult in French, designating some ridiculous, incompetent or stupid person. Tripe is also a slang term synonymous with rubbish, in the sense of something of little value, or nonsense. Don't forget, "stinky!"


Anonymous said...

I am continually amazed at the things that you know .... thanks SO much for sharing!
annie p

Flaurella said...

The Flaurella, she reads, she cooks, she tastes. Occasionally, she spews.
The pursuit of other customs is always an experience not to be missed. (Still, I cannot recommend the menudo!)

Dee~ said...

I still remember LMAO when you told us this story, once you reached Page America...

Of course, here in HotAZ (I'll see your 98 with humidity and raise ya 115 with a hot, southernly dry-as-hell wind) we all are very familiar with Menudo, along with the musical kind. ;)

[still snickering]

Flaurella said...

The desert is too, TOO hot!
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