La Cabeza

“What is that?” I asked in Castillian.

There was a large chunk on his plate. It was about the size of a childs fist. Earlier in the dinner I had assumed that he had ordered chicken, but now that I took a second look, I wasn´t so sure.

“The head.” He replied.

The table was silent as he and his father watched me for my reaction.

“The head of what?” I asked cautiously. Then,  suddenly I recgonized the two long front teeth and the shape of the skull.

The father made a bouncing motion with his hand, then put both his hands to the side of his head to simulate the long ears of a rabbit. He raised his eyebrows excitedly.

“Oh…” I paused…

“You´re not going to eat that?” I asked.

“Oh, yes! The head of the rabbit is very good!” Replied the father. “This is just how my grandmother used to make it. It´s so good, I ordered one for myself too!” He had already finished his dinner. But as if on que, the waiter arrived with a second plate of broken rabbit parts piled on a thin pool of broth.

Knowing how he likes to share the flavors and textures of his culture, I quickly took a gulp of red wine and prepared myself for the worst.

“You never see the head of the animal on the plate in the United States.” I stammered in Castillian.

Within seconds of the new rabbit landing on our table, he had forked a small object onto my empty plate. It rolled around like a marble before coming to a stop in the center.

“Uh oh. Organ meat!” I silently thought to myself.

The father´s eyes lit up as he excitedly pointed to his own back and smiled, “How do you say this part?” He questioned in english.

“Kidney.” I replied.

“Yes!” He said, then smoothly added in Castillian, “It´s very rich, No?”

Trying not to think too much about it, I quickly forked it into my mouth. Indeed, it was very savory with a pleasant firm texture.

“Yes, it´s very good.” I admitted.

“The cheek. You must try the cheek. This is a very special part.” He dug into the face of  the rabbit and pried off a small chunk of meat that he deposited on my plate. Again, I found it to be delicious, smoothly textured, well seasoned.

“And now, you try the brains.” He informed me.

“No! You don´t truthfully eat the brains?” I suggested, hoping not to find out.

“Oh yes. This too is a very special part. You must try it.” He insisted.

A lump of grey matter was forked onto my plate.

As I think back on this moment, I´m pretty sure everyone in the restaraunt stopped what they were doing or saying so they could watch the American eat rabbit brains for the first time.  I was so focused on the burnt and basted substance before me that I´ll never know. At that moment, the small, pulpy lump was larger then the jagged peaks I´d seen in the distance, more mysterious than any of the high mountain passes I´d been crossing to get to the valleys on the other side.

I hesitated.

Then I went for it.

As opposed to finding something to  savor, I discovered a disconcertingly textured, offensively flavored mush that tasted miraculoulsy, exactly how I feared rabbit brains would taste.

“No me gusta!” I exclaimed, and reached for the wine.

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