This one goes out to my Uncle Dick. He and my Aunt Susie are probably the biggest reason I emigrated to Latin America. Back in the 80’s, they took up the expat life in Jalisco, Mexico …with the big difference being that they tended to stay away from foreigners and cultivated beautiful relationships with the locals. After their arrival in Mexico, I went toe-to-toe with my then-intense fear of flying and escaped the Chicago winters for two weeks every January. Through them, I visited homes of their friends in the hills above Puerto Vallarta and came to love Mexico as much as them.
One morning, while preparing a late breakfast, I remember (I’m cursed with total recall after alcoholic bouts) there was a knock on the door. My Uncle Dick went to answer it and, after a brief discussion at the door, he came into the kitchen with a quart bottle of something that looked like water.
“Hey! You know about this stuff?”
“No. What’s that?”
“That’s raicilla, baby. You ever heard of it? You want some?”
I’m pretty sure I’d swallowed some of the freshest eggs and butter in the world …or I would have begged-off. As it was, we poured some shots and I sliced-up some limes.
“Careful, now …it’s strong,” he told me. This was from a man who I’d never seen advise caution to anyone regarding a distilled spirit. If YOU couldn’t take it, that was just tough shit on your part.
“What is it?”
“Raicilla. Moonshine tequila from up in the hills. It’s good but it’s not easy to get. You got to know somebody. This stuff is particularly good.”
I sniffed the shot glass and it smelled good …but strong! I squeezed a wedge of lime into mine in the hopes of …I don’t know …and steeled myself …and took a slash.
I didn’t taste too very much but what impressed me was that, for all it’s strength, I didn’t cough or choke …it was barrel proof and had numbed, anesthetized my throat. It went down smooooth. That freaked me out.
“Well! Whaddya think?”
Neither good tequila nor mezcal was available in the US in those days. José Cuervo, this weren’t! Like any good cactus whiskey, the perfumes of the stuff started to swirl up around the back of my pallet and into my sinuses and into my lungs for the next couple of breaths.
“Gimme a second,” I said, trying to take it all in so unexpectedly there with the sun streaming in on its way to the yardarm. “It’s good. Really good.”
“It’s about 140 proof, give or take.”
I told him that it didn’t really taste that strong …then it hit me. I’d never downed a shot of anything that affected me in the tips of my toes before any place else! Pretty soon, my whole huaraches were tingling.
A couple two three shots later and the afternoon began to dissolve into sun, sand, ocean, and palmtrees. Beautiful day.
Just a few years later, I read that the actor Richard Burton had become a big fan of the stuff just a few blocks away from my denouement. Ten years later, I was introducing a generation of Chicagoans to mezcales, albeit at a more civilized level of the active ingredient.
Great article! If you can get it in your city, take a slash and think of the Ol’ Yanq and his Uncle Dick.
“The king of canned plant products is the canned tomato. Tomatoes are the ideal use case for canning: a product with a very minimal harvest time is picked at its peak and preserved, so I use canned tomatoes ten months a year, happily. The only time I opt for fresh tomatoes is during the tiny window in summer when the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania fruits are at their peak. There are lots of variation in canned tomatoes. They usually come in either whole, chopped/diced, crushed, and pureed/sauce. Go for the whole ones and cut to your liking. My favorite trick for turning whole canned tomatoes into a puree is to jam my immersion blender right down into the can and go nuts. No extra cleanup!”
Aguja – Chuck, Chuck Roast from immediately in back of neck (cogote)
Asado / Asado de Tira – Rib Roast, Short Rib Roast
Azotillo – a Shoulder cut
Bife Ancho – Rib Eye Steaks, Prime Rib, Rib Eye Roast,
Bife Angosto – Strip SteakPorterhouse Steak
Bife a la Rueda – Round Steak
Bife de Alcatra – Sirloin Steak
Bife de Costilla – T-Bone Steaks
Bife de Chorizo – like a Strip Steak
Bife de Lomo – Tenderloin / “filet mignon”
Bofe – Lungs
Bola de Lomo – Sirloin Tip Roast
Carnaza – Stewing Beef
Carne Picada – Ground Beef
Chinchulín – upper segment of the Small Intestine
Chorizo – Spicy Sausage
Cogote – Neck
Colita de Cuadril – Rump Steak
Corazón – Heart
Costilla – Rib
Criadilla – Testicle of young beef
Cuadrada – Bottom Round-Stewing or Strogonoff Beef
Cuadril – Rump Roast, Rump Steaks
Entraña – Skirt Steak
Falda – Skirt Steak (diaphragm)
Falda con hueso – Skirt steak with bone
Hígado – Liver
Lengua – Tongue
Lomo – Tenderloin
Marucha – Short Ribs
Matambre – Flank Steak
Milanesa – Minute Steak
Mollejas – Sweetbreads
Mondongo – one of the stomachs
Morcilla – Blood Sausage
Nalga – Round Stewing Beef, standing rump
Ojo de Bife – Ribeye
Ossobuco – Shin
Paleta – Shoulder Roast, blade steak
Palomita – Butterfly Cut near Shoulder Roast
Peceto – Round Steaks, Roast Eye of Round
Pecho – Brisket
Rabo – Oxtail
Riñones – Kidneys
“Ros Bif” – Roast Beef (you’ll sometimes see on menus)
Sesos – Brains
Solomillo – Hanger Steak
Tapa de Asado – Rib Cap Roast
Tapa de Nalga – Cap of Round Roast
Tapa de Cuadríl – Cap of Rump Roast
Tortuguita – a portion of the Rump
Tripa Gorda – Large Intestine
Ubre – Udder
Vacío – Flank Steak
Annie Cooper was looking outside her kitchen window at another orchard of nuts going into the ground. This one was being planted right across the street. Before the trees even arrived, the big grower — no one from around here seems to know his name — turned on the pump to test his new deep well, and it was at that precise moment, Annie says, when the water in his plowed field gushed like flood time, that the Coopers’ house went dry.