On Wednesday I took a guided street food tour through a company called Eat Mexico (more on this in another post). It was fantastic, in no small part due to our guide Francisco de Santiago. Aside from his enormous knowledge of Mexican cuisine, he is also a former professional bullfighter. I have been curious about bullfights and the culture of food around them since arriving here, so when he offered to take me to a special fight that was happening on a thursday night, I jumped at the chance. It didn't hurt that in the same breath he said that we would meet up early to eat birria, from a vendor that only sells it on bullfight days, outside the stadium. He also said his father had taken him to the same place as a child.
Wait, how old is this place? What's birria?
Birria is the single best thing I have had to eat in Mexico. It is basically a goat stew in which everything is diced very finely but I still don't understand exactly how it's made. I think the ingredients are all prepped in advance so that they can be combined and served up nearly instantly to hungry fight-goers who are eager to get to their seats. You can take big bites of meat and onion, slurp the broth, strain out the solids for tacos, add salsa for even more depth of flavor, or lime for more brightness to cut through the rich goat. There are a million ways to eat this stuff and none of them is really better than the others. You can't go wrong. This is an old school one pot dish but it is a chameleon of flavors.
About the vendor at Plaza de Toros. It turns out they the same family has been cranking birria out of this spot at basically every bullfight for the past 60 years. That is the same amount of time that McDonalds has been a franchise. But 60 years really just has to do with how long this bullring (the largest in the world) has been open. Apparently the family has been making it for well over 100 years. This bowl of soup is a national treasure. It should be in the museum of regional fast food that doesn't suck. Unlike McDonalds.
Whatever your feelings about the institution of bullfighting, when you actually go to one, you see there is a lot more going on than the fight. It's like a baseball game. Do you go to watch baseball? Sort of. But it's equally about the experience of community. Everyone sits down together, grabs a drink, and breaks bread. On that level at least, it's pretty great.
Regarding the killing of the bulls, all of the meat is butchered in the stadium as soon and the animal is brought out of the ring. Every bit is used. So I ask myself, is it really worse than the practices of industrial slaughterhouses?