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Fiesta celebrates Mexican heritage (w/video)

By JR Ortega
April 5, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 4, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.

Ol' Skool Hang Out team member Janie Delgado, of Victoria, right, pours menudo into a cup next to her husband, Rudy, left, during Fiesta Victoria at DeLeon Plaza.

And the winner is ...

First Place, Party Men-You Know

Second Place, Sweet Cheeks

Third Place, Mama J's No Bitchin' in My Kitchen

Also at the Fiesta

The fiesta is the Victoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's - La Camara de Comercio's - biggest fundraiser. The fiesta featured a variety of food and craft booths and music from well-known Tejano bands such as David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Los Palominos, Fama, The Robert Charles Band, Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia and La Presion. The Victoria school district mariachi group and ballet folklorico also performed.

Beer in hand, Rudy Delgado sinks deep into his foldable lawn chair, letting the tufts of steam puffing out of the menudo pot envelop him.

The scent is more than just scoops of chili powder, oregano and the juicy marinade of cow stomach lining; it's the smell of home.

Delgado and his wife, Janie, were competing in the menudo competition at La Camara de Comercio's inaugural Fiesta Victoria on Saturday.

The entirety of DeLeon Plaza filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Mexican culture - from the scent of menudo to the beats of The Robert Charles Band playing a little Tejano and a little country.

At the center of it all, Delgado said, is still the menudo, something the now 58-year-old can still remember trying for the first time.

"I must have been 8 or 9," he said. "I just loved it. It was part of growing up."

As children bounced on moon jumps and people sat around listening to the music, enjoying corn-in-a-cup and tripe tacos, Delgado and eight other teams were battling it out to see just whose menudo was the best.

His team, Ol' Skool Hang Out, has a secret weapon in their menudo.

"It's that tender loving care," he chortled.

Really, their special ingredient is nothing special at all, his wife said. The key for the Delgados is to never measure and to spice to their liking.

They also transfer the meat over into a second pot at one point to lessen the amount of fat in the already greasy broth. The soup has all the basics, like stomach lining, pig's feet and hominy.

They also add several dashes of oregano and a lemon - whole.

"I just do it and taste test. They like it, so I guess I've been doing it right," she laughed.

Each team has its own way, but the building blocks are all the same, Delgado said.

Edward Ramos, who coordinated the menudo cook-off with his wife, Jessica, said of the eight teams, he had his eye on one winner.

"We've got one white guy," he said teasingly about his longtime friend Matt Wooton.

Wooton stood over his menudo, stirring it slowly, the reds and browns of the broth strong enough to rival any longtime menudo-maker's own recipe.

"I just love to cook," said Wooton, who learned about menudo from his wife, Gloria. "This is probably my third time cooking it."

Wooton makes it the way most people make it, but he uses both white and yellow hominy. He also just spices to his preference.

Even though Wooton was not raised with Mexican traditions, he can see the bond menudo creates.

He likens it to any other family food tradition, like crawfish boils.

"The way I see it, it provides people with family time," he said.

The menudo was judged on three criteria: taste, texture and color, Ramos said.

In the end, only one team can take home the coveted trophy, complete with a menudo pot as a topper.

Win or lose, Delgado said each team already was doing what menudo was meant to do - bring family together.

"We've got to work together to make it happen," Delgado said. "It's our culture. It's part of our lives."

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