"We got too much food," Mike explained, "come have some."
We order food in often at work, especially on the weekends. I entered the break room to find a few nurses, respite aides and housekeepers sharing a small feast of latin american origins.
"It smells delicious," I looked around the table for a familiar dish.
"Eat, eat," R., one of the respite aides implored. "Here, try this."
She lifted some broth to my mouth. It was superb. A tomato base, some spices I couldn't identify and some meat.
She ladled a bunch of the stew into a cup. I saw that it was full of white meat. Tomato and chicken soup, what a perfect boost for the middle of the day.
We chatted gamely for a while, mostly about food. As I slowed my eating down, I began to notice the texture of the chicken was smoother than normal.
"R., is this chicken? Or is it fish?"
"It's pork," answered one of the other nurses.
"No, no," a housekeeper spoke up , "beef."
"Beef? It can't be beef," I said, "it's white."
Everyone in the room began to laugh.
I consider myself a risk taker when it comes to cuisine. I am not sure when it happened. Long before my dumpster diving days in college, obviously. But when I was really young I used to require a separate dish for my salad and my pasta, and a separate fork as well. My parents used to have to beg me to try new things. "All I ask," my Dad would say, "is that you have one bite."
"Yes, Mama," said R., "it's white because it's the stomach, it's cow stomach."
"Oh yeah? Wow." I finished the cup off with a flourish.
A quick search on Google after lunch revealed several hits for Sopa de Mondongo, which has its place in several different cultures. In Nicaragua the soup apparently has "healing powers." It is apparently not the same thing as, but is similar to the Mexican dish, menudo.
R. , who is Dominican, laughed when I showed her the web sites, some of which hailed the dish for its ability to perk a person up after a night of partying. "Oh yeah, it cures hangovers," she agreed, "it really, really does."
I tried to imagine starting off my morning with a big bowl of the savory, greasy soup.
One of the other nurses groaned, " I can't believe you ate that."
I thought about the stomach inside my stomach. " I can," I said, "it was delicious."
And it was. It was even better than whale. And less endangered to boot.