Little chicken hearts

A friend and I headed to the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco on Sunday–a place that I think is far and away the most beautiful spot in Bogotá–and on the way stopped to get some lunch. We went to Sopas de Mamá y Postres de la Abuela, a chain that’s especially popular with families on lazy, drizzly Sunday afternoons. Not particularly hungry, I focused on the entradas (appetizers) section of the menu. One option, Corazoncitos de pollo y papas criollas, sounded light but filling. I also have a huge weak spot for papas criollas. A small dish of these yellow potato teenyboppers mixed with some chicken sounded like it would hit the spot quite nicely. I ordered una limonada natural to drink.

corazoncitos de pollo

When the waitress brought the dish, I was confused to see a small mountain of strangely-shaped black objects on my plate interspersed with the anticipated papas criollas. ¿Eso es pollo? I asked the waitress. That’s chicken? I asked, very skeptical. She nodded and left me to contemplate the mysterious burial mound before me that was composed of what looked like parts of no chicken I’d ever hitherto encountered. I remember thinking, ¿Pollo chamuscado o qué? Scorched chicken, or what? I just couldn’t account for the black color. My mouth not exactly watering, I had no choice but to wish myself a very perfunctory bon appétit and dig in. My friend said that maybe it was hígado or molleja–liver or the gizzard–which happened to not ratchet up my enthusiasm a lick. Meanwhile, he started into a bowl of delicious chili that I wished I had ordered or that he’d be chivalrous enough to give me in exchange for my burial mound (he did share very generously). Not wanting to look like a baby, an ingrate, or a wasteful person, I resigned myself to sucking it up and eating as much of the dish as I could stomach.

To my surprise, it–whatever “it” was–was pretty good. It tasted close enough to chicken and had a normal mouthfeel. No alarm bells went off in my head, but then I leaned in to inspect the black things more closely. They were clearly individual, self-contained units, as if they’d been cranked out on a factory belt. These were not pieces; these were parts. There was also a very suspicious tube-like apparatus poking out of each of them. Baffled, I made myself eat more of them–plate to mouth, plate to mouth, my spirit very lackluster but my palate surprisingly not minding in the slightest. I made sure to space out the papas criollas so that I wouldn’t eat all the good stuff and then find myself facing an entire plate of these black doodads.

Chicken hearts

And then it hit me: I was eating hearts!!! Chicken hearts!!! Little chicken hearts!!! But, of course! That’s exactly what the menu had saidCorazoncitos de pollo: little chicken hearts. Or, simply chicken hearts, but said with affection, cutesiness, or merely for no reason at all, that Colombian tendency to diminutivize willy-nilly just for the fun of it. Chicken hearties, chicken heartlets. They had spelled it out for me with Plastilina and quedé gringa. Oh, I felt so bruta, bruta, bruta. Stupid, stupid, stupid. How could I be so dense? How had it not sunk in? The menu had clear as day specified chicken hearts, I had ordered said chicken hearts, my plate was piled with what should have been unmistakably chicken hearts. And yet . . . I knew not what I ate. My dining partner and I laughed for what felt like hours, but my laughter was decidedly bitter.

Let it be said that at no moment had the restaurant lied to me or deceived me in any way. Had I tried to sue, I would have been laughed out of the attorney’s office by the doorman. How can corazoncitos de pollo be understood as anything but, well, corazoncitos de pollo? Because I didn’t realize it was literal, that’s why. I didn’t take them at their word. Because–and this is so very embarrassing to admit, so bear with me–I read corazoncitos de pollo and thought I was going to get small portions of chicken breast in little heart shapes. That’s right, blog: I am everything I denounced in my Freshly Pressed post last March. I am cursi. Yo, la más cursi de todos. I’m poetic, I’m Romantic, I’m figurative, I’m cheesy. Go figure. While the restaurant called al pan, pan, al vino, vino, y a los corazoncitos de pollo, corazoncitos de pollo (that is, they called the proverbial spade a spade), I had to get all symbolic and thus finally received my just desserts: a platter spilling over with chicken hearts. Well, call me a literalist from here on out.

What I was expecting

What I was expecting

It was all so obvious in hindsight. That distinct heart shape, that little tube poking out (the aorta). And, yet, it truly didn’t have an organy or offal taste. I’d eat them again if I had to without so much as a whimper, but I probably won’t be ordering them. Certainly not by accident. I made myself eat about half of them–I ate about 15-20 little chicken hearts all told, which still blows my mind. But, hey, at least they weren’t little chicken testicles, little chicken brains, or little chicken eyes. I probably won’t be calling any romantic partners mi corazoncito any time soon, either–the associations with black chicken ventricles and atriums is just too fresh in my mind, mouth, stomach, whatever.

On the bill, it said corazones, probably to save space. Now, if it had said corazones de pollo on the menu, I absolutely would have understood it. The diminutive version, however, threw me for a very regrettable loop. Even my friend–a Colombian–didn’t make the connection, not even when it was right in front of us. Beware of diminutives! They can make even the rankest, most pernicious things sound downright adorable. Don’t be hoodwinked! This mistake had nothing to do with my level of Spanish; instead I didn’t think of the literal meaning of the word and let myself be beguiled and charmed by its darling, innocent-sounding name.

Have you ever been deceived by a food’s name in Spanish and eaten something awful? I ate chunchullo once–chitterlings/intestines–without knowing what it was and felt sick to my stomach. I also once lunched on chigüiro–capybara–without realizing it, but it was actually quite good. And another time I had mondongo–cow stomach soup–and did know what I was eating, and it was also good. But that’s the extent of my jaunts into strange eats. No bofe, no ubre, no sopa de menudencias for me. Not even if you diminutivize them–al perro no lo capan dos veces. (A Colombian proverb that figuratively means that smart people don’t make the same mistake twice; literally that a dog sure as heck doesn’t let himself be neutered a second time.)

And while we’re on the subject, let’s enjoy a great bachata: Aventura’s Mi corazoncito.

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17 responses to “Little chicken hearts

  1. I love chicken heart soup (and basically all menudencias)! Very brave for trying all of that. I think that with chunchullo, morcilla, bofe, etc. you usually have to have been used to eating it since you´re little to really enjoy it. I found out here that a lot of upper-class people don´t eat that stuff and even when they try it they don´t like it. though I don´t like mondongo, the texture is kind of off-putting.

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    • Not exactly brave since it was by mistake, but, yes, I was pleasantly surprised to like it, as well as impressed with myself. I hate to be a picky eater, though there are some things I just can’t do mentally. Morcilla’s fine. Sure, I can totally understand that about having to grow up with it. I’m sure there are lots of U.S. equivalents. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, anyone?

      I think that if I decide to stay here for the long haul, I will eventually get around to trying all the “weird” things. Or maybe when I try the weird things, that will be the signal that I am here for the long haul :)

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  2. menudo, moronga, tacos de tripa.. todos las cosas que no tenemos la oportunidad para comer allá un nuestras patrias (aparte que sea francés). Si no te molesta el sabor, disfrutalo ;) buena suerte!

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  3. Hahahaha! Good for you to eat what was on your plate! You are definitely a getter person than I. The protruding stem would have done it for me. Lol

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  4. Hahaha, love the story:) Judging from the photo, the serving is quite big for just la entrada. Like the name of restaurant too:)

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    • I think it was meant to be shared amongst a group of people! Being from China, I’m sure you’ve eaten an interesting dish or two yourself :)

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      • ¡Claro que sí! En China (y también en restaurantes chinos en EE.UU.) se comen toda la parte de pollos/patos/cerdos/reses como cabeza, lengua, cuello, corazón, hígado, riñón, tripas, pies. No desperdiciamos nada;-)

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  5. I can’t believe you had that! So funny, and the way you tell the story. If I had been there I would have totally gotten it at once that they were talking about real hearts. And surely after seeing them. But listen, if you are OK with eating meat then this is not bad at all. It’s just another muscle, a very powerful and lean muscle. Very little fat there. And don’t even complain about blood vessels (don’t dis the aorta). When you eat other muscles, there are plenty of blood vessels there too. Now, liver and other organs are a completely different deal. I don’t eat any of that but I have tried most of it. Some stuff I stayed away from, like kidney, lung or udder, so I will never know what that’s like. This time, the menu spelled it out for you. But I want to give you a piece of advice: never get sopa de raíz. Now, that name is misleading. You might think that they are talking about the root of some plant. You would be so lucky: that one is made with the penis of a bull. I just did a quick search and found a few recipes for it. And if they mention criadillas, then you are the lucky one that gets the testicles. And those would be bull testicles, not the “little chicken testicles” that you mentioned above. You’ve been forewarned, so don’t come back later with some story of the vegetarian meal that you thought you were getting :)

    BTW, when I am in Bogotá I go through the Biblioteca Virgilo Barco virtually every day, on my way to el parque Simón Bolivar for some running. Beautiful place.

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    • Ha, it was a hoot. Nope, my friend and I must be quite dense. You make a fine point about hearts- maybe I will order them again. Thank you for the head’s up about sopa de raíz. Did not know! Bull penis… blech. But did know about criadillas. Hahaha, little chicken testicles. As if one needed to ask for the small ones :)

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      • I wonder how you go about getting the ingredients for that. The supermarkets don’t carry it and I’m pretty sure that a regular butcher shop won’t have it either. Then what. You go to some butcher and ask, “señor, tiene huevas de toro?” A ver que dice el tipo.

        Next time you are around the biblioteca, go to el Parque de los Novios, if you haven’t been there. You might like it even better than the biblioteca.

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  6. I love chicken hearts! And intestines (though mostly of pork), and other such innards. I guess it has something to do with being from Malaysia, where this is rather common (though maybe half the population isn’t such a fan; it depends on individual tastes)

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  7. Daniela Aranguren

    Hola Katie!!

    I can’t believe you eat chicken hearts… Oh my….. What are you up to!!!

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  8. Pingback: And another blog birthday! | Vocabat

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