Xintij ri xpan… jun mul chik

I redeemed myself, the night after I wrote about my failure to develop an adventurous palate.

Arriving home from school, I smelled something delicious cooking on the stove: my favorite pulverized tomato, onion, and pepper sauce. Hooray vegetables!!

The sister-in-law (who’s relationship, I should point out, is now in question– I can’t figure out who she’s married to!! or if she’s even a relative…) drained something on the stove. Potatoes? Mmm, more vegetables. Hopefully with some beans?

Julia placed a dish of tomato sauce with unidentifiable white objects floating in it in front of me. The objects were small, roughly quarter-sized, and did not strike me as animal.  On the side were tamalitos and ichaj (herbs).

Learning from my previous mistake, I did not ask a question that I would rather not have answered. Instead, I readied a tamalito to ease my gag reflex in the event that the first bite was wretched.  I mixed the ichaj into the tomato sauce, and carefully proportioned one piece of herbage to one unidentifiable piece of… something.

Not bad! I didn’t even need the tamalito! I quickly consumed the entire contents of the bowl.

While I was eating, I couldn’t help but try to guess what it was I was shoving down my gullet. I heard the word “camarones” several times during dinner conversation– yeah, that means shrimp, and this definitely wasn’t shrimp.  Maybe they were using it to mean seafood?  I didn’t immediately recognize the texture of the product, although I had the sneaking suspicion that I had encountered it in a previous meal. It was slightly rubbery, and looked like very dense carpet on one side (the other side was smooth). I strategically positioned each bite on my spoon so the carpeted side wouldn’t touch my tongue.

Only after every scrap of food was gone from my bowl did I venture a question at the youngest daughter.  “How is this called?” I politely inquired. “Xpan ruk’ pix.” She replied. I asked her what that was in Spanish, and my host dad chipped in, “Panza! Panza de una vaca!”

Good god, I had just finished a bowl of cow stomach. I spent the rest of the evening trying to erase from my brain the morbid thoughts of my stomach digesting the stomach of another animal…

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