Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Adventures in España, Part 2: And Now, a Reflection on My Love/Hate Relationship With Ham


Dear jamón, jamón ibérico, bacon, jamón serrano, jamón–flavored potato chips and any other forms of pig meat product available in Spain,

When I was much younger, there was one unfortunate Christmas season when everyone miscommunicated and no less than three different people showed up to the same party with a honey baked ham.

After everyone had finished pigging out (pun intended), there was still enough ham left over to feed a family of four for a month. And surprise! My family of four volunteered to load all that ham in our Jeep Cherokee and take it back to our house to finish it off.

Thus began “Hamageddon.” My younger brother and I were served ham and eggs for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch and ham slice with a side of creamed spinach for dinner every day until our arteries exploded from the excessive sodium intake.

This hamtastrophe stuck with me for years and haunted every form of ham that presented itself in my life. But now, years later, I was finally over it.

That is, until I traveled to Spain.

The conclusion I have drawn, which, it should be noted, is not based on any kind of actual knowledge or scientific fact, is that Spain must be overrun by wild pigs. Never in my life, with the exception of Hamageddon, have I see so much ham. Ham in Spain is an acceptable breakfast, lunch, and dinner food. It is also a snack flavoring and topping for various tapas.


[Spanish nativity scene, complete with wild boars.]

Screw the Flower Arrangements, Let’s Use Ham!

Let me make a wild generalization about Spaniards as a whole: they think the leg of a dead pig makes for an awesome table centerpiece.

I’m not sure why, but shops and various eateries have taken to displaying dead pig legs on wood plaques or hanging them from the ceiling by rope. Then, supposedly, if you were in the mood for some ham (and who isn’t?) the shopkeeper could easily grab a pork-carving machete and slice you a hunk directly from a preserved pig leg, hoof and all.


I’m Just Going to Give Up on Romance and Marry Some Ham Flavoring

I’m not going to lie; I only have room for two true loves in my life: my cat, and any and all types of potato chips (no one is going to be particularly surprised when I die alone, are they?).

While traveling in Southeast Asia during college, I made it a personal goal to sample as many potato chip flavors as possible. Some personal favorites were nori seaweed, spicy chili squid, and seafood and mayonnaise.

However, nothing could prepare me for the incredible array of ham-based potato chip flavors in Spain.

My travel companion Blonde Beyonce looked on in disgust while I made it a personal mission to consume every ham-related potato chip flavor I could get my hands on. This was a simple task, as most markets and movie theaters offered Ruffle’s jamón chips as a mainstay. I also stuffed my face with ham and cheese-flavored Lays and BBQ ham chips (fuck yeah, let’s throw some ham slices on the BBQ!).

I'll Take a Big Mac Jamón, Please

Well, duh, McDonald's in Spain offers a burger topped with jamón ibérico. Was that even a question?

And Then I Considered Buying Everyone a Bottle Opener Shaped Like a Disembodied Animal

Spaniards are well aware that the prevalence of ham in their country borders on absurd. If they weren't, they wouldn’t offer ham-themed souvenirs to tourists.

Not only did I encounter a bottle opener shaped like a dead pig’s leg, I also found the same disgusting animal product in magnet and key chain form. While I was tempted to buy them, it occurred to me that nobody else back home would understand why it was hilarious that my keys were now attached to the hoof, leg, and thigh of a dead pig.

I Don’t Think This Qualifies as Breakfast

One morning, I ordered the “breakfast special” and received thinly sliced ham on a baguette doused in olive oil, and a cup of coffee. Well, obviously that would be the breakfast special.

And Then it Became Clear I Knew Nothing About Where I Was

“Boy, it’d be hard to be Kosher in this country,” I said. “There’s nothing to eat but ham!”

Blonde Beyonce consulted her guide book briefly. “Well, I doubt that’s a serious problem, because King Ferdinand expelled all the Jewish people in the 1400s.”


Well, that explains a lot.

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