The word peanut translates, in Spanish, to “cacahuate” — pronounced something like caca-watta. As far as words go, cacahuate wins over peanut hands down. I don’t think I’ll ever call them anything else.
I’ve eaten more cacahuates in Guadalajara in the last week than I have in the last year. They are a favorite snack here. And there’s a particular type — Japanese peanuts (cacahuates japonés) that are peanuts covered with a crunchy outer coating and often tossed with some kind of flavoring — that I’ve fallen in love with.
One of the best things I’ve eaten so far was something called a Piña Loca. I bought it from a vender at the baseball park when we went to see the Jalisco Charros play. It was a whole hollowed out pineapple, filled with cut-up fruit and cucumber, and cacahuates japonés mixed with sweet, chewy little pieces of tamarind, tossed with spicy sauce made of pickled fruit and chile powder called chamoy.
Piñas Locas are definitely coming to Warren, PA next summer.
My youngest daughter, Ruby, will turn fifteen as we travel home next weekend. She prides herself on her willingness to eat pretty much anything. This trip is no exception.
So far she’s eaten Menudo soup — tastes from her grandpa’s bowl — including a nice big bite of honeycomb tripe (That’s the lining of a cow’s stomach.) She didn’t like it. But she went back for the broth to give it a fair shake. (She thought it tasted like the state fair smells.)
She liked the little beetle — called a cocopache — she ate at a pre-Hispanic restaurant better. It tasted nutty, like a sunflower seed. The scorpion worse. It was too squishy. She had to spit it out. They were bites of food her uncle ordered.
She’s so much more adventurous an eater than I am. I don’t eat much that I haven’t eaten before and if I’m not careful, I tend toward squeamish.
I did eat a beetle off my brother’s plate, though. And I tasted the menudo, even though I already knew I didn’t like it. (I’ve eaten from my dad’s bowl before.) My daughter makes me more adventurous than I’d be without her.
After our baseball game, Dad was too tired to walk somewhere for dinner, so my daughters and my brother and sister went out. We found a place that we thought served fondue, which sounded fun, and instead ended up at a restaurant called Los Amores de Frida that specializes in pre-Hispanic dishes.
Pre-Hispanic=bugs. Which is how Ruby ended up eating a beetle and a scorpion.
As we ate dinner last night, I thought about the time when I was maybe twelve that our dad took us all to an Asian restaurant and ordered octopus for every one of his children that were old enough at the time to eat it. All six of us. Not calamari in its little fried rings — octopus with tentacles. And we ate it. It was like chewing on a bite of rubber hose, but we ate it.
My sister is a braver eater than I am. She was when we were younger, too. My youngest daughter is so much like her. She loved garlicky, buttery little escargot — even more, I think, when she knew that they were snails. It made her feel grown up to enjoy something so gross.
She powered through a whole bowl of menudo, tripe and all, our first night in Mexico. The night our brother ordered cocopache beetles and a scorpion for dinner, she ordered a bowl full of huitlacoche, also known as corn smut.
From Wikipedia: Corn smut is a plant disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis that causes smut on maize and teosinte. It is edible, and is known in Mexico as the delicacy huitlacoche which is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups.
From my sister: She’s glad the restaurant was dark, because it looked like slimy, over-cooked spinach. But it tasted pretty good. Ruby was upset she didn’t taste a bite before it was all gone.
Our brother is braver than both of us. He ordered a plate full of bugs and a scorpion for his entire dinner. No plan B.
I ordered tamales. Trying to ask in Spanish if they had pork inside them somehow ended up with me being served a plate of tamales with a giant mound of carnitas on the side.
It was a fortunate mistake, though. Because my brother and sister liked their adventurous orders, but they dug into my carnitas, too.
Tamales and crispy, slow-cooked pork might be less adventurous than beetles and corn smut — but eating them al fresca in a Guadalajara restaurant while Frida Kahlo watched from the murals with people I love most in the world and a saxophone player serenaded us with Cold Play and Ed Sheeran — they were just about as close to perfect as anything I’ve ever eaten.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter and Instagram and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.