Jorge’s family is sort of obsessed with quirquincho.
I’d heard this strange word hundreds times throughout my first visit to meet his parents. Quirquincho this and quirchincho that. Per Foreign Language Acquisition Rules, I just politely nodded and ignored asking what the word meant, because I had already pretended to understand too many times and finally asking what it meant would have been embarrassing (ONE MUST PRETEND TO KNOW ALL WORDS AT ALL TIMES).
It wasn’t until visiting his brother’s house that they pointed to the quirquincho hanging on the wall that I realized OMG they’ve been talking about armadillos the entire time.
As in, hunting them. Eating them. Making stews with them. What a delicacy they are. How much they wish they could have another one. The way the flavors mix with fond childhood memories. And on. And on.
Like I said–a little obsessed with quirquinchos.
On my most recent visit to Candelaria, I got the chance to try quirquincho. It had been freshly hunted off their own farmland in the morning, courtesy of the three dogs that live out there. Seriously, armadillos roam their farmland. Pretty much the entire family looked at me strangely when I said I had only ever seen armadillo in a zoo.
And from my perfunctory knowledge of armadillos, I would never have guessed that it could be hunted. Isn’t it just one giant moving shell? Furthermore, how does one eat a giant shelled animal?
How does anyone even know there’s anything under there worth eating? Can’t we just let it stay out there and do its shelled thing?
These were some of my existential questions prior to the quirquincho.
I’ll be honest, I was pretty hesitant to try quirquincho because, well, there’s no mistaking that IT’S A LITERAL ARMADILLO. Completely intact, just…you know…boiled. *gulp* Okay.
But hey. When you’re the partner of an Argentinian farm boy, you don’t want to offend what could potentially become your in-law family for life. So, you know, you eat the armadillo.
Even if it looks like it will leap up and ATTACK YOU at any moment.
Once we sat down at the table, the shelled carcass had been replaced with cuts of its meat. Could have fooled me that this bad boy would have had any meat under that shell, but hey, what does a suburban girl from Ohio know about eating this stuff? (Hint: nothing.)
The meat was pretty okay. Served cooled, it reminded me of dark turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving. The shock and awe of seeing the creature in a baking dish sort of marred the experience. But, really, every time I go to visit Jorge’s family, I’m pushed up against the glass wall of where meat really comes from. For them, and many others in the world, slaughter and meat preparation is as common place as cooking beans is for me.
But from my sterile North American, non-farm life, seeing these sort of things is still SHOCKING to me. I’ve been acclimating to sights like these since my first trip abroad to Mexico in 2006 — I can still remember the cresting nausea as I walked the central market with my Mexican Mama for the first time, observing with horror and pity the swinging slabs of cow and more.
That doesn’t mean I’ve adapted fully, though. Every once in awhile, a surprise armadillo will get the best of me, leaving me both slack-jawed and horrified as I contemplate putting it in my mouth.
But I respect their lifestyle, and I really admire their connection with the land, the animals they raise, and the purity of their intentions. It’s easy to forget that a large majority of the world still lives so closely with the land — especially in America, where most things are a car ride or a trip to Kroger away.
I’m the first to admit–I wasn’t raised with much contact with rugged nature, or any sense of living from the land. Sure, I played in the woods and climbed trees. But hunting to survive? I don’t know if it’s a luxury or a pity that I’ve been able to live a life without knowing that.