Spanish Food 101: Carne, La Secunda Parte

Find the first part of carne here or by scrolling down.

Cerdo

cerdo

The family’s choice meat for cheap and cheat days (it is pork, not chicken, which serves this purpose, as you will read later and indeed are reading right now). The cuts for cooked pork are chuleta de cerdo (pork chop) or lomo (loin).

Like the steak, it is usually cooked a la plancha, chicken fried, or pan fried. Add a little bit of oil, a pinch of salt, chop some cebollas y/o hongos and badabing badaboom you have yourself some meat.

No stories to go along with this, so I will take this moment to talk about the Dukan diet, which the mother loosely follows.

“I am forty-five and have had three children. My body gets fatty. When I was young I was thinny, but my body is not the same any more. When I was 26, I could eat what I wanted and swim or run and my body remembers [how to lose fat].”

Dukan is similar to Atkins in that it champions protein and limits carbs. Following these basic rules, she avoids deep fried foods, bread, and pasta and rice for the majority of the time. Her meat and fish is always cooked a la plancha, and the desserts are limited. She’s in great shape, but women are always hard on themselves and their bodies. You see a slim woman, you are seeing a woman who is practicing denial of desire in some form. I am now going to give the mother a yoga lesson, so we can assuage some of this food indulgence. And later, nadaremos hasta la boya en el mar.

A quick aide memoir for how to pronounce my name:

Donde es Sophia?

Ella esta en la playa.

While I was Googling proper Spanish names for the cooking style, I also came across Chicharrón, an Andalusian dish which is generally made of chopped, fried pork belly or rinds. I didn’t try this. My arteries are thanking me.

 

Jamón

jamon

Cured ham.

Here is one of my favourite exchanges from the past year. It is both informative and highlights how devoid some people are of lateral, or non-literal, thinking:

“Did you know that Jamón Ibérico  means ‘fuck off, Muslims’.”

“No, it means “Iberian ham”. Jamón means ‘ham’ and Ibérico Iberian. Iberian ham.”

The story that I was told goes that when being invaded by the Moors, a centuries-long saga in Spanish history, the Spanish started hanging pork legs in their windows as a middle finger in the face of the Muslim marauders; pork is haram, after all. As further centuries past, the Moors left but the Spanish love of ham remains strong. Or, to bring a terrible pun here, the Spanish still find jamón irresistibly moreish.

The two most well-known varieties of jamón are the aforementioned Ibérico (from black Iberian pigs), and serrano (from the mountains). It is usually served in thin slices or cubes, and crops up on most all of the tapas and emparedado (sandwich) menus around.

On the first day of this stint in Spain, I accompanied the host mother to Mercadona where she spent a cool €50 on a hefty leg of Ibérico which is still yet to be fully consumed even though it has been used almost daily as an appetiser or snack.

Mercadona is a normal supermarket, but the supermarket which supposedly does the best jamón, or, if nothing else, a dedicated counter for it. Point to one of the hams hanging from the back and the deli girl (do we have a word for this?) will adorn rubber gloves and a chain mail apron to open the jamón and give you a taste. After you approve, she will then go about wrapping it in a breathable bandage-like fabric for transportation. Pay and try to get home before it stinks the whole car out permanently (n.b. Thai fish curry is the very worst smell that I have come across for trying to get out of a car, as I learned the hard way my first night in Andalusia having got covered in fish sauce as part of a catering job gone awry).

Serve with melon for a more fresco experience during a hot summer night.

 

Carpaccio de Manitas de Cerdo

BFh2hONcTrwA1p9Y

“What is this?” “You guess.” “Something pig?”

Nearly there.

Pig. Trotter. Carpaccio.

It was quite tasty and less rich than, say, pâté.  But a carpaccio is thin, so this may be why this is the case. It is supposedly not too fatty either as during production it is processed in a way to get rid of a lot of the fat.

Serve on a small, crisp piece of bread and contemplate how much of the animal we waste in the UK.

 

Xai de la vall a la brasa amb saltat de bolets

xai

A lamb chop. “Lamb from the grilled valley with mushroom skewer”. This was one of the house specials at a Catalan restaurant that we visited in the mountain town of Ribes de Freser. In the habit of eating fish, I picked a fish dish.

“You can eat much better fish at [our] home. Here is for meat.”

She then talked through the entire menu, all of which was in Catalan. Yet to eat lamb, I went for lamb. Locally sourced lamb. I remember the days when I hated lamb: lamb and asparagus being the only two foods I actively disliked. Now I like both, go figure – time changes us all. For fresh asparagus, Andalusia is your place in Spain. The white asparagus is particularly palatable. But I am here to talk about lamb. Which was unremarkable but plentiful. The father was rather pleased when I told him that his cooking was better than that of this restaurant, which had come recommended by his favourite carnicero.

The mountains are for meat, but I suppose there is a reason that this is the only time I have seen lamb on a menu.

 

Pollo

chicken

Here’s one for the kids.

We very rarely ate chicken. So rarely did we eat it that my primary memory of chicken in Spain is as part of  Jamaican dish that I ate in Andalusia. I doubt this is traditional Spanish fare.

The father in the family is, as the mother puts it, a “gourmet” (pronounced “gore-met” rather than the usual French pronunciation that we Englishes have adopted) and insists on buying quality ingredients wherever possible. Good for the plate, a strain on your pocket and diary. His family raised chickens as he grew up – and I believe still do – chickens which were free to roam around the yard, eat well, and grow to be several years old having lived fulfilling lives. Shop- and market-bought chickens, on the other hand, are force-fed for a few months, given limited if any space to move during their short lives, and are killed mercilessly more profit (surely the best way to kill). Such is the difference in quality between the chicken of his boyhood and the chicken on the shelves that he refuses to buy it.

The only time I ate chicken in Catalunya was as part of a paella (glorious) and some nuggets for a picky-eating cousin who was guest for a week. Even then the chicken was brought farm fresh from the grandparents’ house in San Carlos de la Rápita then frozen in preparation of these two occasions.

As recompense for a lack of primary experience of chicken and as my final note on carne, here is an infuriatingly catchy song that I used in my English lessons with the children for your enjoyment. It includes the word “chicken” and therefore is relevant here. Plus it has been in my head for the past few days, so now you can share that joy with me:

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