Ever had tripe stew? No? Oh, how I wish I could say the same. Suffering from a cold last week, a hot bowl of stew sounded good for lunch, so after class we headed to Cumana, a legendary Buenos Aires restaurant known for its empanadas and stews.
Their menu lists ~10 different homemade stews. We had tried 2 before and asked our server which others she recommended, and her top suggestion was the mondongo. Now, my Spanish is not great, but I’m pretty sure she said it contained tomatoes, onion, and a part of the cow (while gesturing toward her back). We had been to Cumana before and told our waitress that we didn’t like “organs” (seemed like the easiest word to use to get our point across), and she assured us that none of their dishes contained organs, quickly putting us at ease. So this time I didn’t think twice and went for the mondongo suggested by our server. Bad idea.
My stew showed up after our fabulous empanada appetizers, and I quickly noticed a substance floating on top with texture not often found in food. It was smooth on one side, and wrinkled and lumpy on the other – think cauliflower. I dodged this and instead tested the waters with a bite of broth and vegetables. It wasn’t terrible, but it seemed to have a funny taste that I didn’t particularly like, so after a few more cautious bites, I left it relatively untouched.
When we got home, I decided to google “mondongo” to see what it was – turns out it’s a traditional Argentine tripe stew. Mm, mm, cow stomach – just what I was hoping for to help get rid of my cold. Apparently that’s not considered an organ here? Thought we’d been relatively clear when we said we didn’t like organs in our food – guess next time we’ll have to say “mondongo” as well, along with all the other non-meat parts that us Americans shy away from. Lesson learned. Now if only I could find Campbell’s chicken noodle soup here . . .