Cabezas | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Cabezas

For my money, the tastiest meals come from humble beginnings. Steak goes to the aristocracy. The rich eat pork loin. Poor people don't eat so high on the hog; ribs will have to do.

Gee. Too bad.

Elaborate recipes, developed over centuries and handed down through generations make less desirable ingredients more palatable. Chitterlings, menudo and sushi all began as peasant dishes; some still are. In the U. S., much of what are referred to as "variety meats" wind up in pet food. Here, they wind up in people food; in Mexico, they use the whole animal.

Hooves and heads feature prominently in Mesoamerican food. I see lots of sheep shanks, pigs' feet and chicken feet for sale in the carnicerias (butcher shops) and pollorias (chicken stores). In Superama, a supposedly upscale supermarket in Querétaro, I saw an artfully arranged cello-wrapped pack of chicken necks, heads still attached, their little eyes closed in eternal repose, their sharp little beaks removed, I suppose for safety. I bought the package and fed the chicken to Rose, whose diet consists largely of raw, meaty bones.

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She crunched right through their little skulls with gusto, the little carnivore.

Cabezas (heads), as an ingredient, have been showing up all over the place. The other day, I saw a man delivering a box containing four pigs' heads to a private home.

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I've never seen food prepared from pigs' heads listed in restaurant menus, so I only can imagine how they're used.

Cows' heads are another matter. Rare is the taqueria that does not include tacos de cabeza on its menu, and those cabezas come from cattle.
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This one was being delivered to a butcher shop in the mercado. As I photographed it, a campesino standing nearby made jokes about eating it and smacked his lips in mock appreciation, so I guess that some Mexicans are as grossed out by the prospect of eating cabeza as I am.

Where does all this squeamishness come from? When I was a kid, I'd eat worms on a dare. This probably explains a lot. The other day I broke down and ate barbacoa, prepared from whole mature sheep cooked on top of a pile of agave leaves. Intense.

The media doesn't help. We're subjected to a continuous barrage of articles about the "bad" food du jour. The government gets into the act with egregious overregulation. The only sensible option, IMHO, is to ignore all of it.

Tacos de Cabeza. A tasty dish of the common people. Undoubtedly delicious. So why do I still hesitate to try one? I truly am a wuss.
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