The Spaniards and Their Ham

Never, in all my days, have I ever seen anything like the Spaniards and their relationship with cured meats. The connection runs deep.

You can see it in the hostel where I stayed for a couple nights and a couple free breakfasts. For the most part, the breakfast was a monastic, cafeteria type affair, consisting of bad coffee from a machine and white processed bread. But the minimalism didn’t hold true for the meats. I had a choice of six  cured meats with which to swathe my Wonderbread.

The first time I saw a smoked pork hindquarter the size of a human child hanging up by its hooves, I stopped dead in my tracks. I opened the glass door that separated me frocom the dead pig flesh, and I breathed in the fragrance of the jamon Iberico for the first time. It’s somewhere between cigar smoke and frying bacon. A person can’t conveniently forget that she is eating an animal corpse if the hoof is still attached.

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This afternoon, I upgraded my accommodations to a flat in the Poble Sec neighborhood. This flat has a tv, and during a five minute commercial break, I witnessed to different love songs to cured meats. The first one involved some light pink flappy meat stuff flying through the air, nesting itself over the breast of a beautiful girl, and twisting itself into a heart as she smiles.

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The second commercial begins with a mom brandishing a stick of dusty white cured meat at her family and lecturing them in Catalan to keep their hands off it- she needs it for some recipe or other, and that’s that. Everyone agrees halfheartedly. Then you see the little imp of the family crawling up a stool to take the sausage off its hook in the kitchen and cutting a piece for himself. The inside of the sausage is blood red. The father is next, and he stuffs his face and covers it with a newspaper to avoid being caught. Even grandma succumbs to the temptation of the sausage as she’s cooking. Finally, we see the crafty mom pulling her own private stash from the back of a cupboard and cutting a piece for herself.