The first time I ate pig face was at a bar in Cuenca. This was more than a dozen years ago, and I was in the Spanish town, about a two-hour drive east of Madrid, with my friend Leah. We were graduate students then, both at the tail end of our twenties and living off of fellowships as we finished our dissertation research. The weekend trip was an antidote to all those hours in dark archives.
We spent the morning walking in the lavender-covered hills outside of town and gasping at the houses that dangled perilously over Cuenca’s twin gorges. But by afternoon, the weather had turned rainy and cold. And so we did what any Spaniard would do. We went to a bar—or, rather, to several of them.
In the first we ordered coffee, and then, when it seemed sufficiently late, we switched to wine. In each place, we enjoyed the peculiar attention—a kind of collectively heightened awareness—that attaches to two foreign women in a Spanish bar. We acted, of course, as if we weren’t aware of it. This was not false modesty, but something even more treacherous: the desire, not uncommon among callow travelers, to prove that we belonged.