Went to a restaurant tonight near the market in Antigua, ordered the cheapest item on the menu, and received a hot pot full the flabby, fatty skin of a pig. This was not a specimen of Guatemalan food at its best.
A mistranslated menu is one of the perilous pit-falls of traveling. It happens to everyone at some point on the Road: you think that you order pork chops and rice, but come to find a steaming bowl of pig skin soup set down in front of you.
Now my tastebuds have been trampled, beaten down, and worn-in by the rigors of budget-travel: I do not heave at the sight of unseemly food, I can eat a plate of gross looking entrails with a smile, and I hardly even balk before tossing some unidentifiable foreign object referred to the locals as food into my mouth. But this Guatemalan soup bubbling over with the plump, fresh skin of some butchered and processed pig was too much for my iron-willed stomach to take. I said no way, I would not eat pig skin soup on this occasion, no matter how cheap it is. . . and, mind you, pig skin soup sells cheaply in Guatemala. So I ate the accompanying rice, and strolled out into the streets of Antigua in search of a more palatable supper.
I ate a cheap hamburger, and was never more please at the appearance of solid, edible meat. All for all my two dinners costed 25 quetzales – which is far lower than the average price of a single meal in Antigua. So, relatively speaking, I did not squander too much of my bean money on my picky extravagance.
The going rate for a plate of food in touristy Antigua seems to be around 30-80 quetzales – $4 to $10.
But behind every main drag of a tourist town is a market area that serves good, cheap plates of food at a fraction of the down-town prices. This is where Mira and I found the pig skin restaurant, across from the market in Antigua. We ate dinner there three times, and it took us these three days before we realized that the cheapest items on the menu were more or less “spare-parts.” For two days in a row I ate liver thinking that it was a peculiar tasting steak, and then, on the third night, I ordered pig skin soup thinking that I was getting a porkchop. For now on I know that I should inspected the menu a little closer when eating at cheap restaurants in Antigua. But, in reward for the pangs of poking at soggy pig skin, I did learn some new words:
Chicharron in front of Cerdo means pig skin
Panza in front of Res means cow stomach
Higado in front of Res means cow liver
Beware of entrails and spare parts when traveling on the cheap in Guatemala!
I am not sure if even the Guatemalans eat this stuff.
Cooking my own dinners from now on.