Ham is an unavoidable component of Spanish life. If you’re lucky enough to end up in someone’s kitchen, there’s sure to be a leg propped on a special wooden stand and covered with a cloth; leaving the hoof and hairy ankle exposed. The American in me questions how sanitary this could be, but Spaniards won’t hesitate to cut off a slice straight from the block. A Spanish teen once told me that adept ham-cutting skills are a point of pride and assured me his mother slices the best, thinnest pieces of jamón.
I was in El Tigre getting tapas with a gaggle of Americans and used my then-limited Spanish to ask for something “vegeteriano por favor. No carne por favor.” The waiter thought he had just the thing for me and brought out a big plate of cheese croquets. One bite confirmed my suspicions that Spaniards don’t 100% understand my lifestyle. Apparently the little flecks of ham in the cheese don’t count as meat, right?