It is a distinct minority that will eat tripe, and no use trying to convert your friends. An even smaller, but passionate, minority in this country demands tripe in its best North American preparation -- menudo. Menudo is a northern Mexican stew of tripe, calves feet, chili and hominy, served and savored in El Paso, Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville and points south of the Rio Grande as well. What menudo is famous for, in addition to its flavor, is its powers as a hangover cure. Served with beer, and sprinkled with raw onions, red peppers, lemon juice and other condiments it is a demonstrably fine one.
To make it at home takes a trip to the Eastern Market, Pena's Spanish Store, the Americana Grocery or someplace else that sells calves feet -- and six to seven hours cooking time. Tripe is easier to find. You can get it in the District at Magruder's, the Eastern Market or a number of other places.
Get the calves feet sawed in several places. The tripe, which has sort of a slithery, unpleasant texture, you cut up yourself into one-inch squares. MENUDO (6 to 8 serving) 1 calf foot, cut in pieces 2 to 3 pounds tripe 3 quarts water 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 large onion minced 1 1/2 teaspoons salt Chili colorado or chile powder 1/4 teaspoon cumin 2 teaspoons oregano 1 can (16 ounces) hominy or the equivalent fresh hominy)
Put the calves feet in the water and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Take the pieces out, remove anything that passes for meat and throw it back in. Discard the bones. Add the tripe and other ingredients, except the hominy. Simmer for 6 to 7 hours. Add the hominy for the last hour or two and add water if it looks as if it's needed.
Serve the menudo with chopped raw onions, pieces of lime or lemon, crushed chiles piquines or other dried red chiles, and chopped fresh coriander (available from Pena's and oriental groceries) to add to the soup according to individual preference.
A stickler for authenticity will use nixtamal instead of hominy. Nixtamal , corn that has been cooked in water and slaked lime, is the foundation of Mexican food, where it is ground up into masa which is made into tortillas.
This recipe would probably serve six people who really liked menudo. You may not find that many among any given group of dinner guests in Washington. No matter. It freezes well.