Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cacahuates Or Barbacoa For Lunch?

As I pulled into just one more of those increasing number of Texas hill country gasoline stations with the very small covenience store or a market attached to it today, I really only intended to pick up a bag or two of cacahuates, or what y’all call peanuts. I’ve become a fan of the chili pepper flavored cacahuates lately, and thought I’d grab some small bags for lunch. Once I stepped out of the car, however, I smelled something which changed my mind. Inside, and at the back of the convenience store was a lady cooking some mighty fine looking Mexican food. Immediately, I forgot about the bags of nuts, and ordered the barbacoa plate.

Barbacoa is barbecued food originating in Mexico, and is popular in Texas, and other border states. Barbacoa can be either pork or beef, but beef is more prevalent here in Texas. And, barbacoa is not just prepared from any beef; it is prepared from the meat in the head of the cow. This meat is cooked slowly (traditionally, but rarely these days, in a pit) and can be flavored very simply, with garlic, salt, and pepper. Some people choose to add additional spices beyond the basic ingredients, and those spices usually include chili powder and oregano. Most barbacoa is not very spicy, and in my opinion, fewer spices are better.

Once the meat is cooked, it is served with onions, cilantro, and either corn or flour tortillas. In South Texas, along the Rio Grande, barbacoa is often eaten on Sunday mornings, but of course, is available on other days as well.

Once having picked up my take-out barbacoa plate, I walked up to the cashier at the front of the store to pay. Once I handed the cashier the check, I said, “Wait,” and then doubled back to an aisle to pick up a couple of bags of cacahuates. I’ve got barbacoa today, I reasoned, but tomorrow, well, that’s another day.

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