Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Going the whole hog

I've now been away for thirteen days. And on every single one of those days I've eaten jamon in some form or another.

In tortillas and croquettes, whilst sipping a beer before it's gets to ciner (dinner) time. In pintxo, alongside everything from anchovie to asparagus, mushrooms to morcilla, and almost every other ingredient imaginable in the bars of San Sebastian. Stuffed into chunks of fresh baguette from the markets for a cheap mid-morning breakfast or late evening supper. In bocadillos when I haven't fancied a sit down meal. In a refrito with steamed broccoli one long lunchtime. Whole raciones (portions) when I really need a ham hit, or media-raciones if I'm feeling slightly less indulgent. As an appetiser in what was one of the best meals of my life to date. On a pizza, although I'm not sure that really counts... I've even found myself wandering into fancy-looking charcuter√≠as now and again, and ordering a couple of slices of the best on the racks, just to see what a 90-euro per kilogram ham tastes like. It does, of course, taste very, very good, although at that price, a couple of slices is all you need to find out. And if ever there's been a day when I haven't eaten any ham, then I've more than made up for it in chorizo, lomo, morcilla, and many other piggy dishes.  

But it's time to get a bit of perspective. Whilst jamon is a ludicrously tasty, subtly varied, hand crafted, and fairly sustainable product, it also appears on my plate only as a result of an animal being killed. I'm definitely not considering becoming a vegetarian any time soon - it would be difficult in Northern Spain - but I do occasionally feel pangs of guilt-fueled gluttony as I tuck into yet another piece of pig. 

So today I'm setting myself a challenge. If I must insist on having jamon at every given opportunity, then I feel like I need to get a bit closer to the animal which I'm eating. Over the course of the next year, I'm making it my mission to take part in each stage of the process of making jamon: From birthing the piglet, to carving a slice off the bone, and everything in between. And, yes, that means the slaughter too...

[Thanks to Su-Lin for the excellent photo - so much better than any of mine] 

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