It may not be the healthiest of meals. Hell, it may be hazardous to the health for all we know. But menudo is one of my favorite meals, and may just be for life. The taste of red chilis, oregano, and other spices in the broth mixed with hominy, tripe and pig feet is heaven. It grosses many people out, but we’ve been eating all sorts of crazy food for millennia, and one only has to travel beyond one’s comfort zone to experience the exotic foods of different cultures to see that maybe menudo isn’t all that offensive to the senses.
For me, menudo has always been more than just food. It’s culture. Eating menudo with family or friends, particularly my Menudo sidekick Alicia, triggers all what it means to be Mexicano: the language; the shades of our color; the dress; ranchera or Tejano music. (And I’m not getting into a debate or argument on the different labels used to identify people with a Mexican background. I can already feel people’s blood boiling wanting to yell something about ‘whitey’, but let’s focus, observe, and get back to menduo, and keep a little love in our corazons, please).
Mom would make menudo on special weekends. I still remember the big, black oval shaped pot she used that covered two of the gas stove burners. I wonder if she still has the pot? It would take a couple of hours or more to cook, so my brothers and I had plenty of time to jump our old wired fence to the park and shoot a few hoops. Family would drive from an hour away to spend the day at our home. My mom would yell across the yard when it was finished, and we’d all line up with bowls to pour ourselves. A stack of corn tortillas along with chopped up onions, jalapenos, and cilantro would accompany the menudo; I believe this may have been the only time as a youth where I would eat jalapenos, aside from the times our grandfather would pay us a dollar to take a bite out of a huge pepper.
Eating menudo solo or with someone else still has the feeling of a social meal that connects one to the larger community. I find myself eating menudo at Taqueria Arandas or Los Altos with Ramon Ayala and Los Tigres del Norte playing from the jukebox and am reminded of my deep roots. It’s only natural that I’d want to promote menudo to the world, but I understand one’s hesitance to the tripe. My only hope is that a vegetarian version of this will never be discovered. Is that too much to ask?