Hibernating Excrement

Friday, my friend Vicki came up from Irvine to spend a day in the big city.  Given that it was already the afternoon, we decided not to go to the Huntington library which will have to wait for another day.  Instead we went to Griffith park, which was nice but/and predictable, despite the terrible/normal pollution that limited visibility.  The real highlight of day occurred after when we went, sans camera because I’m an idiot, to Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan restaurant in Korea town that I had been hearing so much about.

So I’m realizing that Los Angeles is a great food town – better even than New York (especially if you’re on a budget) and San Francisco – because of its size and diversity.  I haven’t been here that long, and certainly have just started to explore the ‘food scene’ (?) here, so it’s probably terribly uncritical of me to fully accept Jonathan Gold’s thesis on why LA is the best food city in the country, but I do.  I’m probably most convinced by the fact that almost anything I get in this city, whether it’s at a nice-ish restaurant or eggs at an ordinary breakfast place, is really really good.    This was driven home by my recent trip back to Denver, where the food is not so great (my mother’s cooking aside, of course).

I’m also realizing that I am or am beginning to be a foodie.  I feel a little insecure about this because I grew up as a fairly unadventurous eater.  I was exposed coincidentally to south Indian cuisine, but was otherwise a high fructose corn syrup-eating suburbanite.  I liked the peanut-butter milkshake at Applebees and the fried shrimp at Red Lobster (but that was weekend food).   I certainly didn’t learn the secrets of my mom’s cooking.  It was only after I studied abroad in Bologna, Italy, that I developed a strong interest in food (and wine).  And even that’s a cliche.  And then I’m a vegetarian, which I feel holds me back from being a real foodie, though I have no interest in meat.

ANYWAY: Guelaguetza.  The decor wasn’t especially fancy; the place looked like an average taqueria.  The menu was pretty meat centered, as I knew it would be.  Vicki and I shared a three-tamale appetizer, one of which was corn with a hot sauce, one of which was made with black beans, and the third which had some kind of meat and mole.  Those were delicious, along with the chips which came with a thick, almost creamy, and pleasantly spicy red mole and queso fresco.  I ordered the empanada with huitlacoche.  Wikipedia defines huitlacoche as “smut disease” and adds this note concerning the etymology of the word: “Some sources give the etymology as coming from the Nahuatl words cuitla (“excrement” or “rear-end”) and cochtli (“sleeping”, from cochi=”to sleep”), thus giving a combined meaning of “sleeping/hibernating excrement.”  Yum!

Actually, it was yum (sidenote: if professional food writers can get away by describing food as having “bite” or “crunch” or being “good,” I think ‘yum’ is of comparable eloquence.  Just sayin’).  It sort of tasted like cooked greens but with more heft, a sensation of fullness that one gets from cheese.  I suppose this is called ‘Umami.’   The empanada of course also had chesse, actual corn, and grilled onions, and it was huge.  This was complemented by a pink-purple and white Horchata that had bits of sweet melon and cactus and was topped with walnuts.  Well, it was supposed to come with cactus, but maybe it was just cactus syrup, because all I could taste were the melons.  The nuts were a great addition as well, though the drink was a bit cloying towards the end.   Vicki and I were both extremely full after our meal.

Our night did not end there, though perhaps it should have.  But I’ll save that for another post.

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