Spaniards love their pigs, or more precisely dead pigs in form of ham, or jamon.
You see it everywhere, but Madrid seems to have more shops selling this local delicacy than anywhere else we visited. Apparently every home has a special device designed to hold ham legs for slicing. You find places like “The Museum of Ham” on almost every street.
According to those who eat such treyf, jamon iberico is the pinnacle of a pork ingesting experience. Black pigs are allowed to forage for acorns before ending up on the end of a fork after a number of intermediate steps. However, in all our country driving we didn’t see any pigs. Seemingly they are very good at hiding from tourists, but evidently not so good at avoiding the butcher.
The number of pig legs in shops, supermarkets, and restaurants is truly stupefying. Interestingly, we didn’t see a lot of the other parts of the animal in markets or on menus, so I kind of wonder where they go.
The local predilection for all things porky mean that one has to look out for lard where you might not expect it. Particularly in the south, we found a number of bakeries use lard rather than butter or vegetable oil when making sweet pastries. Luckily, there are lots of panaderias and pasterlerias so usually walking to another was all it took to find something we could eat.
With the Jews and Muslims getting expelled in the 15th century, it is probably no wonder that the Spaniards have developed an orgy of ham eating. What did surprise me was when we were in Corodba we ate at a tapas bar that specialized in Sephardic and Andalusian specialties. For the most part the Sephardic food, indicated by a star of David, wasn’t all that interesting, but I was hoping to try some of the Andalusian specialties until they told me the ones I liked the look of contained pork. Having a crescent and star icon for these seems a bit deceptive to me and you have to wonder if some poor Mohammedan has found a nasty surprise after they’ve taken a few bites of their dinner.
If you eat kosher style (i.e. no pork or shellfish), here are some phrases that might be helpful:
- No como carne de cerdo. I don’t eat pork.
- El tocino. Bacon.
- El jamon. Ham.
- Manteca de cerdo. Lard.
- Los mariscos. Shellfish.
- Pulpo. Octopus (a common food here).
Vegetarian food isn’t all that common in Spain, although we did find some good organic vegetarian places in Tarifa and Madrid. In particular the place we ate at in Madrid, Yerbabuena, did some very creative and tasty food. Big portions too.
Thankfully fish is very common, so with a bit of effort, there is always something to eat. We certainly didn’t go hungry!