Since posting yesterday's entry, I've heard tons of feedback about the legendary durian. Just when I was ready never to think of it again, somebody told me that there is such a thing as durian ice cream, which I now pretty much have to track down and try. The taste of it just would not leave my mouth. Even the muffin I had for breakfast this morning tasted like durian.
Living in Texas, I thought that today's food would be pretty easy to find, since it comes from Mexico and our local stores do a pretty good job about keeping Mexican products on the shelves. Still, I searched three different supermarkets without success. Finally, Courtney said, "Why don't you try that carniceria out on the Clovis Highway?" Success! Employees at the other stores had looked at me like I was crazy when I described what I was looking for, but the kind people at La Michoacana Meat Market were able to walk me right to it.
Tonight's food: Huitlacoche (aka corn smut, corn mushrooms, Mexican truffles)
The Wikipedia link above gives a little more information on what this is, but the short version is that huitlacoche (sometimes spelled Cuitlacoche) is a fungal disease which invades corn crops, causing the kernels to become blackened, swollen, and filled with disease. If you are thinking that this is not the first time you've read "blackened, swollen, and filled with disease" on my blog, you're right. I also used those words when describing the staph infection on my hand after I was bitten by a spider. But more on that in a minute. Oh, yeah - just wait and see where I go with it.
Another fun bit of trivia from the Wikipedia article is that although there is disagreement about the etymology of the latter half of the word, there is general agreement that the first half of the word ("cuitla") comes from a Mesoamerican word meaning "excrement." Yay!
There's one question that I can't shake from my mind. Roy, you read this blog, and you're a narcotics officer. Isn't the description of huitlacoche more or less the exact same thing as naturally-occurring (not lab-synthesized) LSD? A fungal infection (ergot) growing on an otherwise useful crop (wheat)? I just imagine some poor Mexican farmer thinking that his crop is ruined, but at least he's going to get really high, only to find out that all he's got is funny-tasting corn.
Anyway, we had some leftover chicken from dinner last week, so we made some quesadillas for tonight's dinner. The serving suggestion on the can seemed to show that putting huitlacoche inside a tortilla-based food was the best way to go.
I opened the can and emptied it into a bowl. It looked like road tar with corn stuck in it, but it didn't smell bad. It smelled like, well... like corn. It had kind of a funky, earthy undertone to it, but it wasn't offensive.
Step one of the tasting accomplished, I moved on to the quesadilla. Pretty good! The other flavors in the meal blended with and masked the huitlacoche pretty well. I was actually enjoying it. But then...
Oh God. Let me get back to something I mentioned earlier. That thing that happened to my hand, the thing I linked to above? I never told you about the treatment for it. At first, they thought they may have to cut the infection out, but then they determined that it could be treated with a strong course of antibiotics and frequent hot compresses, to draw the infection out. One night, several days into this, I had just removed a compress from my hand after about 15 minutes, and saw that the thing on my hand had CHANGED. Its entire surface was one giant head, tight, sickly colored, and throbbing. I held it to the light to see it better, and placed the fingers of my other hand around it, so as to steady it and get a better look. Without even applying pressure, the thing on my hand violently erupted into a geyser of escaping infection. The one detail I will spare you is just how much came out. It was a LOT.
Prepare yourself, if you eat huitlacoche, for this experience to happen IN YOUR MOUTH. Not all of the kernels are equally swollen and infected, but eventually, you will get some that forcefully explode into jets of fungal infection between your teeth.
Here's the video of the taste test, which (probably for the best) does not include the scene I just described.