Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to cure a ham

We got to Barcelona this morning about noon. Our flight rather left New York about 3 hours late which made it pleasantly easy to fall asleep. I have never felt so rested, never been able to resist going to sleep during the day, but it is 11pm and I'm still pretty wide awake, though fading.

About 5 in the afternoon we went out for a snack and some emergency shopping (croquetas and olive oil to fry them in for dinner, nocilla (the Spanish version of Nutella) and cookies for breakfast, and fresh milk from the neighborhood dairy that had actual cows as recently as 1985. But first stop was the bakery/cafe where we got chocolate croissants and coffee... yum!

First Snack - Coffee and a chocolate croissant

Next to the market, mostly for the croquetas, but we were completely sucked in by the gargantuan fresh peas at one
stand. They also had a beautiful collection of wild mushrooms that I couldn't resist begging S to photograph:

All sorts of mushrooms at our local market

Mushrooms at the market

Then on to the library to borrow history books, travel history books, and a couple of TinTin movies in Catalan. On Saturdays in summer it's closed, on this Tuesday at nearly 8 pm, it was jam packed with kids studying and grownups reading.

Kids studying at the library

Grownups reading at the library

Finally to my favorite ham store where the shopkeepers greeted me like an old friend and I shared stories of curing our own ham. They alternately congratulated us and worried that following the guidelines in some American book might not have been the best idea. They are a brother and sister who have been raising pigs and curing hams and selling sliced meats for practically all their lives, so I paid good attention.

As he was explaining (and slicing), he was telling me how to test the ham by piercing it with a special tool called a "cala" and then smelling the results. And then he suddenly produced a cala (made of cow bone) and gave it to me! I was very touched. It really made me feel part of the neighborhood.

Cala - Ham Tester

And this is only Day 1!

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