L2o (Chicago, Illinois)

Venchi and Talmone signs over Via Roma, Torino.

Venchi and Talmone signs over Via Roma, Torino.

Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus).

Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus).

A good chocolatier is proud of his work, and will not hesitate to share with you which couvertures he uses, the story behind the name given to one of his chocolates, or the choice of a flavoring. Give him a few hints of your move into the world of chocolate, and, if the queue is not too long, the frankness of his answers and the quality of the time devoted to your conversation should give you an indicator of whether he is a businessman or an artist.
— Chloé Doutre-Roussel, The Chocolate Connoisseur (p. 153)

Brenner’s Logic Goes Belly Up

When asked by a reader about how she misidentified the pancita at Taqueria La Candelaria as “goat belly,” Leslie Brenner offered the explanation below.

So, on the one hand:

(a)  I said pancita is belly.

(b)  Absent any context, pancita can mean belly or viscera.

(c)  Therefore, my statement that pancita is belly was true. 

And on the other hand:

(1)  What I actually ate (and recommended that readers eat) was viscera.

(2)  I never said it wasn’t viscera.

(3)  Therefore, there’s no factual inaccuracy in what I said.

There are two glaring problems with these arguments.  First, the fact that the tacos consisted of viscera (as she belatedly, begrudgingly concedes) provided sufficient context to eliminate any possible ambiguity about the sense of the word pancita.  Yet she called it belly, anyway.  Didn’t eat it?  Couldn’t tell the difference?  In either event, she didn’t ask anyone in the restaurant.  It appears she still hasn’t checked this fact, as she merely says it “probably was offal.”

Second, although she didn’t say that it was not viscera (or, for that matter, that it was not cheesecake, broccoli rabe, gummy bears, a chive pancake, et al.), she did say that it was goat belly; and it would require a novel understanding of caprine anatomy to deny the mutual exclusivity of goat belly and goat viscera.

Pancita: A Note on Brenner’s Belly

Last year, Dallas Morning News food writer Leslie Brenner wrote of her independent discovery of Taqueria La Candelaria (a few months after a review by local taco journalist Jose R. Ralat).  One of the taco options that she described, but says she did not try, was “pancita (belly—pork, presumably)”.  

Two days ago, following six months of her usual style of exhaustive research, Brenner announced her list of the best tacos in Dallas, including Taqueria La Candelaria.  While last year pancita was “presumably” pork belly, she now says it’s goat belly.  Implying that she’s eaten it, she recommends that readers “go for pancita, goat belly, with a richer, more assertive flavor."  

Here’s the problem.  Pancita is not pork belly.  Nor is it goat belly.  Pancita is an animal’s stomach (usually mutton or lamb, sometimes kid goat) stuffed with viscera (e.g., kidneys, lung, liver, heart, tripe, etc.), vegetables, and chiles, then sewn shut and boiled.  Though an oversimplification, you could call it a Mexican haggis.  

Just as pancita is not pork or goat belly, it does not taste or look even remotely like them.  See the photo below of a taco de pancita from Taqueria La Candelaria, taken on February 2, 2013 (i.e., Candlemas!).  Decide for yourself whether that looks like “goat belly” or a loose offal sausage.

For those keeping score:

  1. Brenner does not know what pancita is (despite being the chief food writer for a newspaper serving a city that’s over 40% Hispanic or Latino).
  2. Not knowing what it was, Brenner wrote about pancita on two occasions without bothering to learn what it was.
  3. Brenner either (a) did not eat the pancita she tried to describe or (b) is unable to tell the difference—by sight, taste, or texture—between goat belly and a mixture of boiled offal.  (In settling that question, reflect on whether you would be able to tell the difference between, say, chopped pork belly and chopped pork liver, kidneys, and lung.)
  4. Brenner recommended that her readers try the pancita that she “presumably” never tasted herself.

Newly metamorphosed Fowler’s Toad (B. fowleri).

Newly metamorphosed Fowler’s Toad (B. fowleri).

This shows dominant ISP by state using a US map that aligns geographical size with population. (See the insert in the Gulf of Mexico showing comparative size of Alaska.)

This shows dominant ISP by state using a US map that aligns geographical size with population. (See the insert in the Gulf of Mexico showing comparative size of Alaska.)