I ate cow eyeballs the other day.
It’s not what it sounds like. It’s not like I was staring at a plate of food that was staring back at me. They were marinated and diced. Sort of carne asada looking.
And it was in a taco. You can put anything in a taco.
The place was Lily’s, one of my favorite Santa Barbara locales. It’s a frequented restaurant tucked into a corner of downtown up against the 101 freeway. The taco was delicious. I recommend it to any adventurous carnivore.
Monday morning, I told my class about it. I teach English to international students. Hailing from Japan, Hungary, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Somalia -- I figured they'd have experience in foods considered “strange” by US standards. I wanted to see if I could freak them out.
As a kind of warm up I asked them, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?”
I had to explain the word “weird.” Think of all the synonyms you can off the top of your head.
Seiya, from Japan, was the first student to share.
“I had hamburger.”
Ok. I clearly needed to explain this better. Second attempt.
Now a student from Thailand shared.
“Oh! I ate...what is name? Insect?”
Lots of hand gestures. We finally figured out she was talking about crickets. They were getting it.
We continued around the class, each student naming something strange they had eaten. Other bugs, fermented vegetables, horse meat.
Eight students in, we got to Gaku: a young Japanese man who wears a baseball cap so often you don’t recognize him if he doesn’t.
“Ok, Gaku. So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?”
I did a double take.
“Wait wait wait. Say that again?”
The same cryptic answer. The class was in hysterics.
“You ate your mom?! That’s definitely weird…”
All of us, including Gaku, were laughing. He realized his mistake and tried to correct himself.
“Oh, no no no! Not mother.”
And with the calm assurance of someone about to settle some confusion, he said:
Now I’m losing it.
“What?! I said the strangest thing you’ve eaten, not the strangest thing you’ve done!”
At this point, I told the student sitting next to Gaku to throw a chair through the window and make a break for it. Everyone was cracking up. And confused.
I tried my best to get Gaku to spill out whatever the hell he was really trying to say. But to no avail. He just smiled and shook his head, letting me know that he was done trying to explain himself. I had to move on in the fog of uncertainty.
I never figured out what Gaku was really trying to say. He still comes to my class, wearing his cap. A mystery forever unsolved.
And I’m left wondering: can you eat murder in a taco?