The delicious surprise of huitlacoche

Though I do not consider myself a foodie, I am very opened-minded about food I have not tried before. I will eat anything once — as long as it does not have meat in it, of course. Which is why, in San Antonio, I gladly accompanied a friend to a Cuban restaurant that had a couple vegetarian options.

She found it on Yelp after we fruitlessly searched for something local and not flooded with tourists on the River Walk. She studied the menu and was sold. We could split a torta and also something special: huitlacoche quesadillas.

Huitlacoche, she told me, is fermented zucchini flowers and is a delicacy in Mexico. She seemed to know all about it — she is from northern Mexico — so I took her word for it. It was, she said, something affiliated with a different part of Mexico, something rare where she lived, and was therefore an exotic icon of another place.

Needless to stay, I eagerly ate the huitlacoche quesadillas; it is not everyday that one learns about and gets a chance to eat a delicacy from another part of the world. (I’m not sure what huitlacoche’s connection to Cuban cuisine is, but I was unconcerned about that.) And they turned out to be very good. Downright delicious, actually — especially with the fresh guacamole they were served with. I even took fellow conference workers to the same restaurant the next night, selling them on the rare and exotic huitlacoche quesadillas. Two of them ordered it and thought the same I did: delicious!

Yesterday, however, I received an email from one of the other huitlacoche initiates. She stumbled across this article and made a surprising discovery. Huitlacoche is not fermented zucchini flowers. Instead it is a fungus that grows on corn and is called “corn smut.”

Yeah. It looks pretty nasty, doesn’t it? But, I will admit, it is delicious. If offered the chance to eat it again, I think I would. As the Gothamist writer said, “It’s a big mushroom, people; just eat it.”

The real mystery now is whether or not my friend really knew what she was talking about, or if she tricked me into eating it. Hmm…

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