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Culture: All Parts of the Cow!!? – Part II

by Brandi

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November 9th, 2009

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Last week we talked briefly about eating different parts of the cow so that no food is wasted. This week I want to tell you about some of the interesting/different things I ate while living in Latin America. If it makes your stomach weak, just remember that you’re only reading about it; I had to actually eat them.

As I have mentioned earlier, when eating at someone’s home in Latin America, as I did 3 meals a day for two years, you should eat all of the food your host/hostess serves you or they may become very offended and hurt. I quickly realized, by painful experience, that I couldn’t even give the food to someone else and have them eat it – I had to eat all of it myself. As I learned more about Latin American culture with regards to food, I made one food rule for myself that helped me get through the initial culture shock of eating everything. My rule is, “when eating an unrecognized food, do not ask what it is”. Sometimes I implemented a slight change to this rule, “Don’t ask what it is for at least an hour or two after eating it”. This rule helped keep my mind focused, my stomach not as weak, my plate empty and my hosts happy.

Here are just a few of the interesting things I ate while in Latin America that I wasn’t exactly used to. I often ate cow stomach. To me, it tasted a lot like what edible rubber might taste like. It was often cut into little pieces about the size of a coin; on one side it was smooth and rubbery, and the other side had fibers similar to those on a cotton towel. It took me a few times of eating it to get used to it, but then it was tolerable. We also often ate cow heart, liver and other interesting looking meats that I never dared ask what they were.

We had hot soup almost every day for lunch during the two years I lived in Latin America. At first I was surprised it was hot soup even though it was around 100 degrees outside without air-conditioning inside. Often the soup had an actual chicken’s foot in it! The first time I saw a chicken’s foot in my soup, I was a little shocked and thought it must be a joke until I saw everyone else eating their chicken’s foot without even thinking about it.

Now I will briefly inform you about the fine art of chicken-foot eating. You first pick up the chicken foot with both hands, and then nibble the skin/meat around each bone. This process can usually a while, so if you get chicken’s feet in your soup, be sure to plan your time accordingly if you have time constraints. The great thing about chicken’s feet is that if you’re watching your weight, you don’t have to worry; you can have as many chicken feet as you want without having to worry about calories – there isn’t much to a chicken’s foot.

While we’re on the topic of chicken, in Latin America I learned to eat every last piece of chicken from the bones; then I learned to bite the bones in half and suck out the marrow. When I first got married (back in the United States), and my wife saw me do this, she thought I had gone crazy and wanted to send me to a psychotherapist. I had to convince her that I was okay and explain why I bit the chicken bone in half and sucked out the marrow—she thought it was very strange.

Some other interesting things I ate in Latin America were guinea pig, pig’s feet and pig intestines stuffed with shredded pork cooked in boiled pig’s blood. Although the cultural differences in food were hard to get used to, I came to enjoy these differences and soaked it all in. For me, it became quite a fun culinary adventure!

I loved every single bit of culture learned in Latin America. Now, on to you as readers – please let me know about some of the interesting foods available in your region of the country or part of the world.

Moral of the Story: Some cultural differences can seem different, strange, or even weird, but they are just that – differences. Remember, just because someone does things different or eats different things, it doesn’t make them “weird or unusual”. Instead of saying, “Wow – that’s weird!” try saying instead “That is different.”

Sneak peek at next week: “Spanish Names”

¡Hasta luego! (“Until later!”)
David S. Clark — President / Director
Click here to learn Spanish!

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