Jamón, jamón!

There are butchers and then there are butchers and when it comes to Spain, these are a veritable institution in their own right.

Sadly, when it comes to my own place of birth, butchers are dying breeds. Not because Norwegians necessarily eat less meat, but because supermarkets have taken over where neighbourhood stores and local butcher shops once fed the populous. In any other country I have resided, going to the butcher is an act of going to a place to buy a piece of meat. Not so in Spain. In our small barrio alone, we have at least two local carnicerías, as well as an ad hoc sausage maker around the corner. In the town of Ronda itself I am not exaggerating if I say we have close to twenty independent butcher shops, in addition to the supermarket meat counters. The Spanish love their meat, that is clear, and our region seems to be particularly carnivorous. Maybe it is the mountain air tied in with the history of bullfighting?

Whatever it is, the Rondeñas do not take their meat purchases lightly. A sign of a good meat store is that there is a line up and thus, the compulsory waiting time. No Spaniard with respect for herself goes to the butcher to buy one measly piece of meat. Oh, no! Granted they have larger families here in the pueblos, in addition, the local specialties demand all kinds of meaty substances and innards to add that special flavour.

We buy our Ronda olive oil from one of these carnicerías with a wall full of Jamón Ibérico, my husband’s favourite Spanish ham. Last time we were there to stock up, there were only a couple of ladies ahead of us. This would be rather quick-ish, we thought. That is, if the lady in question did not share news about her entire family with the teller, and her menu for the next weeks. Just as we thought she was finishing her shopping, she would add a couple of pork loins. “And give me a few links of the chorizo. Oh, I’ll take the whole ring. And how much are those lamp chops. Give me a kilo.” The wraps of meat stack up on the counter, soon a dozen packages. Well, that should be all. She could not possibly need anything else, even if she was feeding the Spanish Armada. “ I see you have ribs” she said, ordering 500 grams. And 2 kilo of lard, sliced into brick-sized blocks Seeing the fresh bacon, white and shimmering with fat, of course she needed some of that, as well. And that was before she started buying her innards…

By the time it is our turn to buy our olive oil, my husband turns to me, asking what I want for dinner. “How about a seafood salad?” I ask.

One comment Add yours
  1. Ah the dreaded visit to the carniceria! Half the village population (12 women) in the shop, loudly greeting each other, ordering the butcher to cut off this or that mysterious bit off the various lumps of unrecognizable meat in the cooler. Being the “estrangera”, I was cheerfully ignored by everyone. By the time I had gathered the courage to call my order loud enough to cover the noise, there remained no trace of anything edible, so an ageing “pollo” it often was. That was more than 30 years ago and today I cheerfully drive half an hour to the nearest Mercadona, where most customers are foreigners. But not much has changed in small inland Spanish villages and that is a very good thing…

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