I consider myself a civilized person. I am politely accepting of automatic weapons, porn, and capitalism. I pay most of my required taxes and drive the speed limit within city limits. So when Im confronted by a food I havent eaten before, a dish that I dont really know about, I feel suddenly savage, blinking like a simpleton, yearning to try yet confused as to how.
Thus it was today when I stopped at Supermercado y Tacqueria Michoacan in Rolling Meadows. After foreplay at Perez which, as da mare noted, titillates but does not satisfy I was still in the mood for Mex.
Chicharones have always been kind of off my radar; I think the first time I actually ate some was when AaronD gave me a bite of his taco during our 2002 Maxwell Street Foray. It was gloppy, greasy, and really good. It was pretty much all I thought about for the rest of the day.
So when I stopped by this little grocery/taco diner in the Western suburbs, I stood before the smeared plastic cabinet, filled with chicharones, eyes wide like a pirate before a treasure chest. I hadnt eaten all day (okay, I had a PowerBar, but, as Hannibal Lector once said, such things are not even food, by my definition of the word.)
In the cabinet on top of the butcher case at this tiny little supermarket was a mountain of glowing chicharon tejada, thick golden curls of pig flesh, glistening under the lamp, generously streaked with muscle meat, reds, ambers, deep browns and even blacks. I thought I smelled them through their transparent sarcophagus, and their scent spoke clearly: Eat me. I bought three hefty hunks, and hustled them out to my car, quickly, like a pervert furtively fleeing an adult bookstore.
Driving home on 83 (with one eye out for troopers, because being out of city limits, I was approaching the speed of light), I ripped open the virginal white butcher paper and had my way with some pig. I munched it like a sausage, tearing off pieces, admiring the honey-combed inner sheets, streaks of moist fat interlarding the meat, and thinking, quintessence of bacon. It was powerfully rich, and yet not fatty, fully flavorful, textured, and so simple. These almost leathery, feathery light strips were not at all greasy, in the usual sense of the word, and my fingers were not at all sticky after this quickie lunch on-the-run.
But as I ate it, I wondered, is this the way normal people (i.e., Michoacaners) eat this.
Now, I know theres really no right way to eat anything. But isnt it wrong, for instance, to hack at a tureen of pate foie gras with a spork, or to hold a filet mignon in your hand and gnaw it like an apple?
Is it right to eat chicharon tejada, straight-up, commando-style, with no other condiment or complement.
What Im saying is, I felt like a savage, a hungry ignoramus, oblivious to the correct way of eating these voluptuous strips of porcine deliciousness.
Or maybe it doesnt matter.
Ill probably just crumble the rest over a spinach salad for dinner tonight which Im quite certain is not how they usually take chicharones in Morelia, Uruapan, or Zamora.
Supermercado y Tacqueria Michoacan
3989 Algonguin Road
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008