Sunday, December 7, 2008

My First Lamb Taco

I was in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Sevierville the first time I learned that Mexicans eat lamb. A couple insisted on taking me out to lunch after I had accompanied them to their daughter's appointment with a doctor to translate. Those were the early days of my Spanish acquisition. I was much better at talking to the American doctor than I was the Mexican parents, but they didn't mind.

The hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant specialized in tacos, and not the kind Taco Bell offers. When the waitress told me the options, the only one I recognized was tacos de carne asada. After the waitress left, the couple began explaining the other options.

I understood what carnitas were when they said puerco (pork). After a few minutes, we gave up on tacos al pastor. Pastor automatically translated into preacher and I didn't want to go there.

Next: tacos de barbacoa. It looks like barbeque tacos, but I had a feeling that wasn't right. They decided to explain the animal it comes from. The man said it had four legs. The woman said it had a lot of fur. Then came the next word: perro. A look of terror crossed my face. They expected me to watch them eat dog tacos?

The woman realized the mistake in her choice of words. She assured me that the tacos did not come from a dog. She then resorted to making the sounds the animal makes. Baaaa - Baaaa, not Ruff Ruff. I kept asking questions until I was sure we were talking about a lamb and not a dog.

Our tacos arrived and I was relieved to have ordered the most normal thing on the menu. Then they insisted on ordering me a taco de barbacoa. I gave myself a pep-talk and took a bite of a piece of meat. It wasn't really that different than steak.

I ate the taco. I lived. But it was a slippery slope of sorts. Once you've eaten a lamb taco, what's the big deal about a pastor taco, whatever that is? (But don't worry, I draw the line at tacos de lengua, or tongue tacos.)

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