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Taste for a worthy cause Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Mar 01 2014 12:00 PM

Among the problems with handing out your phone number as though it was chewing gum at a halitosis care center is that it sometimes falls into the hands of wise guys and characters. Next thing you know people call and you find yourself in the middle of a turf war.

National City Councilman Luis Natividad and Chula Vista Councilman Rudy Ramirez have been exchanging good-natured jabs recently, each of the city fathers crowing about whose backyard serves the best menudo.

Menduo, for the uninitiated, is a Mexican soup which has beef tripe as its primary ingredient.

Natividad swears by La Sierra on 3rd and Highland while Ramirez contends Plaza’s Mexican Food dishes up the best menudo this side of heaven.

The two have been looking for impartial judges to determine which venue best creates this delicacy and somehow I ended up at ringside. I imagine the vetting process went something like this:

“Hey, look at that Davalos guy.”

“He’s a big boy. He looks like he’ll eat anything.”

“Let’s give him a call.”

And while that’s mostly true, the problem is I’m not a big menudo fan. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid menudo—both the musical stylings and the food.

Relatives on my mother’s side of the family question if I’m really hers. How can any self respecting Mexican not like menudo? It is the food of legend, fixing everything from a rumbling empty stomach to the vilest of hangovers.

And yet, it’s appeal has escaped me all these years. Maybe it’s because I’m the sort of eater with too vivid an imagination.

For years as a child I avoided spaghetti and fideo because I was convinced it was really a pile of dead worms drenched in blood that I was being served.  So when one summer my aunt told me the bowl she placed in front of me was beef intestines, you can imagine what that did to my young appetite. The gag reflex was strong then. Still is.

Over time I’ve tried to overcome my aversion to the soup as a way of further embracing a part of my culture. Really, there’s no way my family can visit from out of town without the whole clan wanting to grab a big bowl of menudo somewhere.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to this challenge. Not only as an opportunity to expand my gastronomic horizons but also as a way to fan the flames of friendly competition between neighboring municipalities.

In the absence of a real rivalry that might be had, say, if both Chula Vista and National City had professional soccer teams, one centered on food might be the next best thing.

Maybe it’ll lead to an annual, alternating menudo cook off where the public and judges drink heavily the first day and bring their hangovers back on the second to decide who has the best menudo in town.

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