Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dining With Swarthy People

The South Sea Flyer has posted a great story about a local coffee shop there in the South Seas. Go read it. Sadly, he hasn't enabled comments on that post, so since I can't tell him so in his comments section, I'll use my own post to let him know, "You very well. You really put the reader in the scene."

In fact, though I've never been to the South Seas, I can somewhat identify with the Flyer's story. The barrista he describes could be any El Paso tortilla/tamale vendor who peddles menudo on Sunday morning. If you take away the humidity, and the change the local language to Spanish, and replace the street minstrels with a mariachi band, and substitute menudo for coffee ... I have been in that very restaurant.

Speaking of menudo (the stew, not the Puerto Rican boy band), it was my older and bolder brother Roy who first introduced me to menudo back during our high school years. Though I never became a huge fan of the stuff myself, Roy apparently has a congenital deficiency that only menudo can satisfy. He's a regular menudo gourmand. For the benefit of those who may not know what menudo is, allow me to explain.

Years ago when I was overseeing construction at a power plant near Waco, the crew insisted we just had to go into Bellmead for lunch and get some "hang down". As often as they repeated the words "hang down", I knew I was being set up. After they'd assured me over and over that this place sold the best "hang down" in all of central Texas, I finally agree to try it. But as we piled into the trucks I hazarded to ask, "So just exactly what is this "hang up" or "hang around" you like so much?

They laughed heartily in anticipation of their long-awaited punchline. "No, no. It's 'hang down'. Hang down is barbeque, but barbeque can be made either from the best cuts of meat (the chuck, the rib, the surloin, the tenderloin,...) all on the upper side of the cow, or it can be made from from the parts of the cow that ... 'hang down'."

Well, menudo is neither top cut nor "hang down". Menudo's bovine ingredient is that portion of the cow that's usually hosed off the slaughter house floor and shipped to the Alpo factory. Menudo is boiled cow tripe mixed with chili peppers, chili powder and hominy. Now if you're one of those squeamish pansies who can't stand the spongey feel of the cow gut in your mouth, fret not. Just eat a few bites of menudo and the peppers will numb your mouth to the point that you won't feel the squishiness (or anything) anymore. But even better, Menudo is purported to be a sure-fire domingo manana cure for your sabado noche hang-over.

But menudo is more than a hang-over cure, it's also the truest test of a wife's devotion. Though Joyce and I have now been happily hitched for over thirty years, my brother Roy and his wife Sally have a couple more years on us and an assuredly much more secure relationship than Joyce and I do. Their marriage has already withstood the ultimate test. You see, about ten years into their union (while they were living in Montana), Roy (who'd gone nigh three years without a heapin bowl of menudo) asked Sally to make him some. Sally (who still took the words "love, honor and obey" to heart) foolishly agreed to make Roy some of his special stew before she fully grasped how much this would test those vows. (I'd say Sally was pretty gutsy, but that would just be teasing.)

Anyway, long about a half day into Sally's tripe preparation, the fumes drove her to swear that she would never again fumigate her house with the sulphurous essence of Elsie's insides. She finished the task at hand and served Roy his ambrosia, but to date she has made good her promise to never again use that method to strip the paint from her kitchen walls. Luckily, Roy and Sally have moved back to Texas since he got out of the Air Force, so nowadays Roy only has to go find some wife-beater-shirted barrista to serve him his menudo fix.

I wonder if Roy's ever tried kimchee.


The Flyer said...

There must be a term for involuntary setting changes that take place without one knowing. I had to search through several pages of settings to find the culprit. I think things are back to "normal".

Gradual Dazzle said...

Kimchi is TEH YUM! We became familiar with kimchi after we adopted our Korean daughter (who's now 12) and wanted to try food from her birth-culture.

She doesn't like it much, herself, although she could eat her weight in bulgogi. :)

Jerry said...

"Back in the day", the Student Union Building at UTEP offered a "poor student's lunch", which consisted of a bowl of menudo and two packages of saltine crackers.

Many was the day when I would check for coins in the couches in order to afford lunch.

Bob said...

That's nothin! I used to check those couches for lost menudo and crackers.

Gradual Dazzle--
I tasted kimchee just once when I was in the Army and didn't feel any compulsion to try it again. But then maybe there are different recipes for it.

Thanks for fixing that. I guess I could have emailed and told you how well you write, but this way I got to brag to everyone a bit.

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

i'm trying to pick my jaw off the floor with the kimchi finale. Thats exactly what i was gonna say! People see me eat it with a quizzical look on their face...then the breeze works in their direction and quizzical turns to disgust...and the obligatory, "what IS that!?"

"Fermented cabbage with various spices and peppers..."

At which point they walk, sometimes run, i happily take another bite of rice.

Conversely, i draw the line at anything "hang down" and internal organs...of course, i'm a staunch upholder of the "I'll try anything once" banner.

Bag Blog said...

We were living in the married housing at SWTSU in San Marcos when my hubby took me to a menudo festival. Unfortunately, I was pregnant a the time and nothing smells or tastes right. Never again! I will stick to barbacoa.