Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:15 AM
I wrote this a few years ago, but this thread made me think of it. I have had a couple of these breakfast experiences in my travels, and I am happy for every one of them.
THIS POST CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT SHOULD NOT BE CONSUMED BY THOSE WITH DELICATE SENSIBILITIES OR THE WEAK OF STOMACH
I was down in Mexico visiting a friend a couple of years ago. My, father, Tom, and my business partner, Jason, and I arrived in town mid afternoon, and were engulfed in the chaos of a street festival. A Ferris wheel spun haphazardly, as did a good number of town drunks. Every vendor stand was cranking a static radio station, a tuba driven polka like nightmare, "Pato" rap, or a street version of karaoke. Barkers tried to get us to play rigged games of chance, or buy real silver rings guaranteed to turn your finger gangrenous in three days. To escape the melee, we retreated to a roof top restaurant to await our friend and her boyfriend.
Really, there is a point to this story, I promise.
So they finally showed up, just in time to jump in on the third round of ice cold Bohimias, and wee drams of Havana Club 7yr. We chatted during a spectacular sunset, and through the violet hour. We got to discuss the local delicacies. I started to get a hankering for some tongue tacos. So we wove our way to the stall only to find it closed. Luckily there was a bar right there that served beer and Cuban rum...
The next morning at 8:--for the love of god, I think I am going to die--o'clock we met again. Iím now sure it was a conspiracy because I soon found myself separated from my father and Jason, being led further and further into the bazaar by my friendís boyfriend. We finally got to a stall where there is a towering pile of goatís heads. My poor rum ravaged stomach completed a move that would leave the Romanian gymnastics team with mouths agape and green with jealousy.
We sit down and I hear him order me a taco of tongue, one of eye, and one of brain, and a soup for himself. Did I mention it was Eight in the F*&king morning? I knew I was going on and on the night before about how much I liked tongue tacos, but not at eight in the F#!king morning, when I was not sure if I could get through a bowl of oatmeal.
The toothless Grandma grabs a goathead from the pile and an apocalyptical swarm of flies rises from the devils mountain of carnage. My stomach does something that Greg Louganis wished he could do, my eyes roll into the back of my head, and I hear from far awayÖĒQuieres cervesa?Ē
Can it hurt? I mean really, what could possibly be the down side? Iím guessing that club soda with Peychaudís bitters is not an option. ďSimone, Guay. Nessisito una chela bein meurta!Ē He orders me a really cold beer, and chuckles as I turn the color of military hospital walls.
The goat head is now on the chopping block right in front of me, mercifully free of flies. Itís tongue sticks out to the left and its lifeless eyes, one of which will soon be in my mouth, stare at the fluttering tarp that is keeping the pounding sun off our necks. The temperature is starting to rise, adding to my need to look around and see if the name of the stall was ďABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HEREĒ.
The beer came, ice cold with rivulets of joy clinging to itís outside. I put it to my forehead, bliss, then opened it and took a long pull hoping to beat back the idea of what I was about to eat.
I am not a picky eater. I will try almost anything, and the things I donít like I will keep trying until I can, if not love them, at least appreciate the manner in which they are prepared.
So I nursed my beer as Toothless Grandma cuts out the tongue, slices it nice and thin and then tosses it on a grill behind her. With a spoon she pops an eyeball out, I closed my eyes and imagined it skittered across the cutting board. I donít open my eyes until I hear the hiss of the sliced eyeball hits the grill. In retrospect I should have just kept my baby blues closed and concentrated on the Modelo bubbles that were quickly making me feel reptilian. A vast improvement from when I sat down believe you me.
The point of this story is just now coming.
I open my eyes and Toothless Grandma has a cleaver in hand, over her head and is about to strike a John Henry blow to the skull. I hate to admit it but I think I winced a little thinking it was my skull she was about to crack asunder. The cleaver came down with a mighty, sickening thud and bone chips flew in all directions. She gave the cleaver a wiggle and the top of the head opened as beautifully as a morning glory. Little dew drops of blood nestled in the matted hair mere centimeters from what I was about to eat. With the eyeball spoon (bad cross contamination if you ask me) she scoops out some brains and flops them on the grill.
A pile of fragrant, hand made tortillas is warming on the side of the flattop. With miraculous asbestos fingers she builds my three tacos, adding cilantro and onion on top.
They look really good, and they smell wonderful. I order another beer, its like 8:10 by now, and start heaping Salsa Roja on the tacos. My dining companionís soup arrives. Itís gorgeous, a huge bowl full of corn, carrots, succulent chunks of goat, onion, and a sprinkling of cilantro on top. I am very, very jealous. What he has is the perfect thing for a hangover, and he isnít hungover. Yet another example of living in a hostilely indifferent world.
My plan of attack is that of an eight year old faced with a plate of Brussels sprouts. Iím going to take a big bite, chew as little as possible and wash the offending matter down with a monstrous gulp of beer. I figure I can get through a taco in three bites. That means I only have nine bites to go. I canít decide what to start with. Do I start with the tongue, which will be the easiest, or go for the brains and eye first to get it over with. Round Robin seems best, one bite of each, order a beer every 3 bites.
The tongue is great. Rich and meaty with explosions of fresh cilantro and onion going off in counterpoint. This isnít going to be so bad I convince myself. Then on to eye that wasnít NEARLY as bad as I thought it was going to be. I am starting to feel macho, with two beers under my belt and a Mexican truck drivers breakfast before me. Then the brains. For the love of all things holy, I canít believe how revolting this is. The texture is all-wrong, and by that I mean there is NOTHING good about it. My eyes bulge a bit as I reach a trembling hand towards my beer. Toothless Grandma is watching me, so I do my best to smile. Iím sure it was a horrible grimace with cilantro and grey matter in my teeth. The beer washes down the bite with only a tiny shudder.
Once again I turn to my dining companion. He is almost done with his soup. Jealousy once again rears its ugly head. I am about to ask him a question when he bites down on something that makes him wince. Into his upturned palm he spits a jagged goats tooth, brown around the edges, and worn unevenly from a lifetime of eating refuse, street jetsom, and garbage from big stinking piles in allys in the unsavory part of town. I gag, my insides roiling like an angry sea. I cannot get the crunching sound of my friend biting down on that tooth, and then him involuntarily swallowing plaque-riddled flecks of enamel. It takes all my will power to force down the rising gorge, and not projectile vomit unchewed chuncks of eye and brain under the table. I take a few deep breaths and thank god for my lovely plate of tacos.
A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE