Ken had been born in Deming, New Mexico and he claimed he was part Mexican. He certainly looked the part. With a face as tough as the leather he crafted, he liked to take a drink or two more than once a day. An alcohol high had become a natural state for him. When he was in prime form he would like to reminisce about past times and Roberta would fill in the places where his memory gapped. The two of them were quite the team of storytellers.
Somewhere in one of his story sessions he had talked about menudo and its medicinal value in curing a hangover. I had not been too much of a drinker back then--oh every now and then, yet not too excessively--but I kept this hangover remedy in mind just in case I would ever need it.
The date eludes me--it was probably late 70s or early 80s--and whether a hangover was even a part of the equation--I think not--but it was a few years after hearing Ken's story when I was in a small town in Texas that I saw "Menudo" advertised in the window of a small downtown cafe. I was no longer with the Ken Griffin Show, but now married and working on another touring show. Seeing the sign in the window that Saturday morning evoked those memories of Ken's stories and I decided this was to be the morning I would try this curative soup.
It was a quiet, uncrowded little small town cafe that specialized in Mexican food and I don't remember much more than that. What I do remember is that large bowl of menudo that the waitress set before me. I breathed in the aroma of the steaming soup and nearly gagged. It was evocative of a barnyard full of animals, not unlike the livestock area of a county fair or the odor that pervades as you drive past a large cattle feed lot. It did not look at all appetizing. A dirty looking broth which suspended slimy white strips of unindentifiable animal products and white globules of a white vegetable product stared back at me.
Since I had ordered it I was determined to eat it. The first bite was so alien and offensive that I was not sure I would be able to finish the rest of the bowl. I slowly continued to eat. I recognized the vegetable globes as hominy and that part wasn't too bad other than being accompanied by the obscene broth it was in. The meat product was a whole different matter. They were slimy bits of rubbery fat colored substance that reminded me of octopus, which was another food that I was not a big fan of. It had that cow taste, not like beef, but like eating a cow right there in the barnyard. I'm pretty sure I didn't finish the entire bowl and I decided that this would be my last meal of menudo.
Menudo is a good example of something that I have acquired a taste for. From the first exposure in which I was completely repulsed by the substance to the present where I look forward to my next bowl, the journey of appreciation for menudo was taken carefully. It was a process of years and the camaraderie of other menudo lovers who encouraged me. Maybe that first bowl really was poor quality--I really have no way to gauge it now. When I eat menudo, it still smells kind of weird to me. I'm still not a huge fan of the meat product, but I love the broth, the hominy, and all the fixin's that go with it. I guess instead of the beef tripe, which is the meat product of which I speak, I'd rather have good quality fat free pork meat. But then I guess it would not longer be menudo and I would have pozole instead. And that's a whole different post about a different soup.
Look at this! Here I 'm supposed to be posting shorter blog bits and today I've gone so long that I can't post what was the truth out of the lies that I posted Saturday and Monday. Okay--I promise you that on Friday I will reveal which was true and which were lies. Oh brother! Did I lie when I said my blog posts would be shorter?