The Tastiest Food

For someone who thinks so highly of travel, I certainly don’t do it very often. The flight to Guatemala was my first time on an airplane in ten years. I had to request a new passport – not because my old one expired, but because, when I found it, it was completely covered in black mold.

Anyway, I find travel invigorating, even though I don’t do it enough. Seeing how other people live really does a lot to broaden one’s horizons… By which I mean, “eat really good food.”

After leaving Guatemala City, our first port of call was Coban, a city roughly five hours away by bus ride along unmaintained roads at a seventy degree angle from horizontal. Here, a group of us decided to hit up a restaurant, where, we were told, they served the best hot chocolate.

  
That’s… well, it wasn’t quite what I expected. The drink was basically just roasted cocoa beans, ground up and mixed with hot water. Maybe it was mildly sweetened.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The stuff was delicious. Way better than Swiss Miss cocoa mix.

The top item on the menu, and the one I just had to try, was a soup called kaq ik, which is pronounced just as it sounds. It’s the signature dish of the region: a turkey soup, served with rice and tamales. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to have a bowl of soup put in front of me, especially when it came out looking like this:

 

…with a big ol’ turkey leg just hangin’ out the top.

Not pictured, sadly, is the tortilla and blood sausage appetizer I started off with. never underestimate the importance of good spices. With the right seasoning, anything can be delicious, even coagulated blood.

Seriously, you guys. This stuff looked just like chocolate pudding, only… you know, made out of blood and stuff.

Anyway, the kaq ik came with a spice mix to be added to the broth per the diner’s preference. I figured to get the whole experience, I should add a little to my soup. I sniffed the stuff first, trying to gauge just how piquant it was. The mix smelled earthy, almost woody, so I thought it would be okay to add just a little spoonful.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the spice mix was actually composed of fifty percent chile powder and fifty percent powdered hellfire…

I spent my meal crying, in part from the pain, and in part from the sheer joy that can only come from eating with friends good food only mildly ruined by tourist’s incompetence while a talented karaoke artist croons Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.”

That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about broadening your horizons.

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