By Angela Marino
Jamón means ham in Spain but it symbolizes so much more than that. Forty million hams are sold a year in Spain. Ham here is different from ham in the United States, so remove the image of Christmas dinner from your mind. Honey baked ham is not available in these grocery stores or in shops. This statistic makes Spain the world’s largest producer and consumer of ham. Salamanca, Spain is home to the famous Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Only four regions in Spain house the pata negra (black hoof) pig, from which jamón ibérico is made. The other three regions are the province of Huelva in the west, Valle de Los Pedroches in the east and Andalucía in the south, specifically Extremadura, all produce jamón ibérico. The pig requires a specific environment for nourishment during its growth.
The encima tree, or holm tree in English, produces the diet for the pigs. It is limited to the 4 regions mentioned above; ham production and housing the pigs is specific to these areas. These trees, once abundant throughout Spain, covered 90% of the country. Thousands of pigs graze in the fields that contain the acorns from these trees. A normal Iberian pig eats between 6 and 7 kg of acorns a day. The unique taste of Jamón Ibérico can be attributed to their diet of acorns.
By Jack Murphy
In many parts of the world, food is an afterthought. Millions choose to flock to fast food restaurants at all times of the day in order to satisfy hunger and avoid taking time to prepare something themselves. Some even choose to forgo a mid-day meal altogether. Such is not the case in Spain, where the preparation and consumption of food is held in high regard and taken very seriously throughout.
The Spanish cuisine presents a variety of tastes and flavors. Having lived with a Spanish family for several weeks, I have sampled a vast array of authentic Spanish dishes. Additionally, touring around the country and trying new and interesting foods has given me insight into the diet of a modern day Spaniard. In the end I think this will culminate into a culinary experience that I will remember fondly. Still, there were several eating habits unique to Spain which took some adjusting to, including the peculiarity that is the day-to-day eating schedule.