by Jeff Allen
I was out yesterday in North Chuck, hauling a load of old gutters from my home renovation project to a blistering hot scrap metal yard on Rivers Avenue, and decided to dive into La Nortena, which despite its relocation, schmancy facelift, and watered down menu, still serves some damn good tacos alongside the best Mexican butcher counter in town – the only place where one can grab an armful of langoustines, some fresh Limehouse tomatoes, and a couple of pounds of beef cheeks under one roof – because, ostensibly, the nice folks at La Nortena really do care whether or not you die from the salmonella clinging to a Florida tomato.
Of course, man cannot live on beef tongue tacos and local tomatoes alone, so I trucked on down by the H & L Supermarket, my Asian grocer of choice these days, to stock up on some thick udon and various Eastern culinary ephemera. …and I got to wondering: what exactly, besides a decidedly more toothsome texture, separates a taco filled with fried pork intestines (which was served up hot and delicious for my lunch yesterday) and the “nastier bits”, like pig uterus, that even self-described exploratory eaters might wince at? After all, both are innards, even if intestines are well known in these parts – because you know, to say nothing of chitterlings, the best intestines make that decidedly snappy “crunch” when you bite into a quality hot dog.
Of course, when it comes to something as pedestrian as pig uterus, there are bound to be multiple theories. I can hear them now. Will Moredock will chalk its opprobation up to sexual repression and pen a scathing indictment of traditional Southern mores and irrational fears of an object associated with the taboo of reproductive health, but which in reality is no more exceptional than eating the thymus gland of a young calf – sweetbreads anyone? Jack Hunter will castigate the very notion of allowing such food to even be sold, owing to the number of illegal aliens that probably find comfort in such “wayward” fare, but then again, that would implicate my plate of tripe tacos as well – and Jack is way to enamored with Robert F. Williams these days, a man who undoubtedly chowed down on some low-pig in his life, to start picking on organ meats.
I don’t really happen to relish pig uterus myself (don’t make that face, you’ve never tried it). It’s too chewy, even after someone braises the hell out of it. I’d rather dig into some good ole’ beef tendon, meltingly soft and gelatinous and swimming in a big bowl of Vietnamese pho, or a big plate of conch fritters – hot and steaming from the grease, with a squirt of lime and a cold beer.
I’m pretty sure if you had offered my grandfather, a native resident of the Delmarva peninsula and no stranger to seafood, a conch fritter, he would have looked at you funny (clams were more than welcome though), and if you tried to make him eat a beef tendon, he might have punched you out. But I can imagine kids coming home from college in a few years with a taste for uterus, with horrified middle class moms and dads, and FOX news screaming about the dangers of normalizing the behaviors of the evil Chinese. …and it’s all there for you right now, in a North Chuck refrigerator case, right out there off Rivers Avenue, next to the pork blood and the beef bungs. You could go, and get ahead of the curve. Why? Because life at the McDonald’s drive-thru is for boring fat people who are too scared to ingest anything besides high fructose corn syrup and modified food starch.
Pig uterus just may have a future, and you heard it here first.