Since I moved to Guatemala eight weeks ago, my favorite past time has been going to the mercado municipal, where I can pick up fruits and vegetables and remote controls and underwear, all with relative ease. I have never once, however, ventured into the meat section – that daunting region with eyes staring and tongues, well, not exactly wagging. It is huge. There are long lines and butchers who mean business. And buying meat is a tricky business. One wrong word and I could end up with some unidentifiable piece of meat I don’t know how to cook…
I wanted to overcome my fear, so I started out small - the mercado is just too vast and populated a place to jump in with both feet. So, I began at my local carnicería -- a small space where I was the only customer at the time, and where the selection is much smaller. The gracious woman behind the counter spared me the embarrassment of flipping through my Spanish dictionary to find the right translation or worse, gesturing to my body parts and hoping she understood my clumsy attempt at Spanish charades. Rather, she simply asked me what I was making, and when I responded guisado, she showed me a piece of baby pink pork. I nodded, paid and walked out, pleased that I had just bought my first piece of meat in Guatemala and it was as easy as ripping off a Band-Aid.
In no time, there was a pot of guisado con cerdo simmering on my stove, and I wondered what all the fuss was about.
The best way to learn the true secrets of a Latin kitchen is to get out there and explore its origins!
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