Once upon a time when I was a younger lass I visited Spain, staying in the home of friends in the bosom of Madrid. Not only did I enjoy the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Royal Botanical Garden – my hosts introduced me to jamón.
How to describe it? It is a salt-cured ham. No, no, far beyond the fabulousness of prosciutto. Just imagine eating a thin slice of chewy, profound savoriness, striated with smooth fat and you might begin to understand the experience.
Until recently, smuggling was the only way to enjoy them in the United States, due to USDA strictures (farcical as they might seem). Many otherwise law-abiding Americans have attempted to circumvent the law in their quest to enjoy these heavenly hams. If you ever have a chance to taste these hams, you will understand why. Leftbanker‘s story should give you some idea of the desperation level for this product – comparing jamón to cocaine is quite popular:
I have decided that an easy way to get rich is to start an international smuggling cartel. I tried to start my jamón traficante business last week by smuggling a ham into the country disguised as a pregnant nun. By the time I got to Kennedy Airport in New York all I had was bone. I shared with everyone around me on the flight so at least I made some new friends. If you are an importer of illegal goods, never use your own product. I think I saw that in a movie once. I don’t like drugs very much so if I were a cocaine dealer this wouldn’t be a problem, but Spanish ham is just so good.
See, her attempt was foiled by her own desires for the jamón. There is now one company currently selling these hams directly to the U.S. market: La Tienda (they are selling various packages online). I promise you, I am not shilling for La Tienda but, if I had the extra dough, I might have been one of the desperate souls putting down $200.00 for a ham future – that’s right, we are talking about potential ham!!!
All this now-historical drama aside, you only need to know this: a bit of jamón with a decent piece of bread makes for a heavenly meal. It also happens to be a perfect travel food requiring no refrigeration. Excellent for those hours and hours of museum-browsing or trekking hither and yon. If you ever get a chance, try jamón. It is rightfully a national treasure of Spain.