Posted tagged ‘Ham’

For the Love of Jamón

May 21, 2008

The first photo album I made from Spain was based solely on a specific food that Spaniards seem to worship more than the old ladies worship their fur coats or the young men worship blonde Americans. More than any other country in the world, Spaniards consume about five kilograms a year of a food that gets significantly less respect here in the United States: ham. Five kg of ham. That’s over 25 million little piglets each year.

 Jamon flavored Lays

Similar to New Yorkers and our hopeless obsession with Starbucks, it is hard to walk a block in Madrid with out spotting the popular Museo del Jamón. That’s right, this food is worthy of its own museum. Not an actual museum (thankfully) Museo del Jamón is more like a deli/diner where you can get ham sliced straight from one of the numerous large legs that hang from the rafters soaking up the patrons’ cigarette smoke. If you look closely enough, some of the legs even have bits of hair left prickling off of the skin. And if that doesn’t get your mouth watering you have no hope of surviving in Madrid.

 

 Museo del Jamon

 

Ham played a strong role in Spain’s history, dating back to 1492 when the Christians drove the Moors and the Jews out of the country. It was the time of the witch hunt when Christians who were not sufficiently devout were accused of being Jewish and the Jews who wanted to stay in the country that they called home worked hard to hide their true beliefs behind excessive PDC: Public Displays of Christianity.

 

Ham became a way for Christians to display their religion and for the Jews to hide theirs. Ham legs displayed prominently in home windows and storefronts became a common sight and it is even said that ham would be hidden in dishes to test a patron’s religious beliefs. Six centuries later the tradition has led the way to a full on love affair with the meat. So it is the Christians of the 15th century that tourists and vegetarians have to blame for the endless surprises they find in their potato croquettes and “vegetable” soups. As one waitor told me as he placed a salad in front of me that was weighed down by slabs of ham, “It IS vegetarian, it’s just jamón!”