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Oxtails

Oxtails and Other Parts, As Promised...Long

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Oxtails and Other Parts, As Promised...Long

Cristina | Feb 17, 2004 02:58 PM

Many years ago I was working with a charity in Tijuana, Mexico, doing whatever I was requested to do on any given day. Part of my duties included driving back and forth across the Tijuana/San Diego border to pick up and drop off food donations to the charity, which ran (and continues to run) a soup kitchen and a grocery dispensary as part of its charitable functions.

First thing one morning I was asked to go with another volunteer to pick up a donation of meat from a dairy farmer who worked just over the border in San Ysidro, California. We set off in the charity's camper truck, visions of neatly packaged meat dancing in our heads.

After many fits and starts and much being lost while trying to find the dairy farm, we finally arrived. The dairyman met us at the gate and said, "C'mon back here where the cooler is; that's where I've got the meat for you people." Whoopee!

The two of us followed the dairyman to the cooler door. "Here," he said, handing us an armload of old heavy paper feed sacks. "Put these on the floor of your truck. We'll put the meat on them." We dutifully followed instructions as he walked into the huge cooler.

After spreading out the feed sacks, I leaned into the cooler to see what he was doing. *OH MY GOD*. He was walking toward me with the entire leg of a Holstein dairy cow~hoof, skin, black and white fur and all~slung over his shoulder. "Take this," he said, "and I'll go back for the other one." I gulped and grabbed it.

Three legs later, I followed him into the cooler and was handed the tail, still in its skin and with the swisher intact. By then I was slightly more blasé and twirled the tail insouciantly as I carried it out to the truck.

The dairyman peered out from the cooler door. "All done? Then stand to one side, I'll bring this big piece out. It's too heavy for you women."

And. He. Walked. Out of the cooler. Carrying.

The entire udder, cradled in his arms like a giant fur-covered gelatin with *ahem* faucets pointing up. The udder shivered and shook as he made his way to the back of the truck, where he dumped it onto the only remaining space.

We thanked him profusely in the name of our charity and drove back to the border heading into Mexico. The customs officer asked me what I was hauling into the country. "Just some meat for our charity," I replied with an innocent smile. He went to the back window of the camper top and peered in very seriously as I watched him from the rearview mirror. I saw his eyebrows shoot up into his hairline as he grabbed his cap in astonishment. His eyes rolled from side to side and he came rapidly back to the driver's side window.

"ÁNDALE!" he cried, swiping at his moustache. "Get that thing out of here!" He waved us through the border and wiped his brow.

I drove back to charity headquarters and got the stuff unloaded. I knew that the legs would be made into menudo and the tail into stew, but the udder? Later, I went into the soup kitchen and asked the ladies what in the world they were going to do with that udder.

"Ay dios," the spokeswoman replied. "We grind it up and cook it with the other ground meat. It's the best thing in the world for preventing tuberculosis and so many other diseases. There's nothing better. We'll tell you when we do it and you can have tacos with us."

Who could say no? Tacos de ubre, the best in the world, were on the menu just a few days later.

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