Recently, my wife and I went to an awesome restaurant called
Hot Heads (free plug 'cause they are that good), which specializes in Mexican food that—surprisingly—will burn the
first layer of skin from the inside of your mouth while it savors the deliciousness. It’s a local chain that has
a wide variety of menu items to choose from, with the only real drawback being that
it takes forever for us to drive to one. (This is one of those instances where
it is probably a good thing, lest I eat a spicy pork burrito for every single
day for the remainder of my life.)
Anyway, since we travel so far for it, every time I go I am
tempted to play it safe—I hate to have the trip end with me ordering something
that I don’t like, and then have a long and stomach-grumbling trip back home. Thankfully, most of the menu is fairly standard, so there
aren’t a whole lot of pitfalls to just slapping everything delicious found in the kitched
and wrap it up in yet another delicious thing and devouring it like some sort of savage animal.
Still, there’s a few interesting items that stick out, one of them being
that they offer “barbacoa” as a meat option. Now, I have occasionally eaten my
share of non-standard meat products, but I had no idea what this
meant. My best guess would have been a cross between an invasion of Russia and
Jane Fonda.* When I asked the nice clerk what, exactly, barbacoa was, she gave
an unnecessarily lengthy description about the processing of steamed meat being
spiced with chili flavoring instead of
giving me a more direct answer of what animal it came from. “Beef,” she said when pressed,
with more than a little hesitation.
So I had my wife look it up on the internet. It turns out
that “barbacoa” is where we get the word “barbeque” from, so my initial thought
is that this was simply some sort of spice flavoring. The unnecessarily lengthy
description (again) given on the ever-accurate Wikipedia is that it is a Taino
(Caribbean) dish that “generally refers to meat…slow-cooked over an open fire
or (more traditionally) in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey
leaves.” It also gives the convenient safety valve of “this interpretation is
loose” which is a fancy-lawyer way of saying "wrong."
Still, I was unconvinced. To me, the entire thing reeked of
ritualistic ceremony and not some skewed final product of tribal culinary
school. Who digs holes in the ground, shoves meat in there, and then covers it
up with aloe? And then proceeds to eat it? That doesn’t evolve organically from any sort of food preparation;
that is what the town cleric decides after a morning with Mary Jane. Tellingly,
this ceremony is non-meat specific, ranging everywhere from sheep to pork to
Finally, it dawned on me…the existence of barbacoa solves a huge mystery. Barbacoa is actually chupacabra meat.
That’s right—that’s the big secret. Caribbean communities have taken their
revenge on the legendary goat-suckers by throwing them in a pit, lighting them
on fire, absolving their guilt by throwing skin lotion leaves on top, and then
disguises the taste of evil with chili powder and eats it for dinner. It
answers all of the questions and fits everything perfectly, from the reasoning
behind the ritual to my woefully underdeveloped knowledge of anthropology. It
answers so many questions I can’t possibly see how I can be wrong.
But with how good that burrito tasted, it has to be right.
*Both of which, I am told, were famous for the mass grinding of meat.