jamon, I'll see you next year

A month ago I set two legs of pork on salt, to start the curing process to make jamon (Prosciutto if you're Italian). I've been doing this annual cure for the last 3 years now and it'll continue to be in my food calendar forever I guess. I've now built a new jamon housing unit to fit two legs. The best part is that I can reuse the cage every year. Jamon comes out, jamon goes in. Before I laid the two new legs of pork goodness in the large tubs of salt back over a month ago, I took down the previous years jamon, a moment of pure joy. The smell, the anticipation. It's often a little overwhelming and rather scary too, as I always wonder of the possibility that I did something wrong in the process of curing it....what if it's a total fail? But again this year the leg worked, I've been blessed. My jamon tastes not unlike the beautiful imported Jamon from Spain.....well not exactly like it but it's pretty damn good.

I love food traditions. I've been developing them for the family for a few years now. And from my perspective, I reckon I work hard for my food. It's the old way, not too far different from a bloke living in rural Spain, Portugal, Italy etc. I tend a useful garden, I hunt, forage, fish and I barter. That's all fairly common place in many communities from the old world. Well I say that, from what I've seen while travelling overseas, and from a million doco's I've watched. So in reality I'm no expert, and I never met my Spanish grandfather but surely he would have been a fan of good Spanish food traditions.

In Australia (and I assume over in America) there isn't that same cultural importance regarding food that exists over the pond. There isn't centuries upon centuries of eating, preparing and cooking the same type of foods and relishing them primarily for their simplicity, frugality and place in tradition. Food doesn't hold such reverence as it does, say like in Spain. In Australia, crikey! we don't even have a national dish (and no a four N' twenty pie doesn't cut it).

Sure there are ethnic groups that hang onto food traditions because it's very much an identity. And I've learnt much from the 'new Australians' and I'm very thankful of their pride in their food culture and for what it's taught me.

Including the annual jamon hang, we celebrate the first ripe tomato bruschetta, passata day, summer preserving days, wild berry picking and the first successful mushroom hunt in autumn. Encouraging a food culture has been a mission for me in our house. Sometimes I feel like I'm imposing my beliefs on the rest of the family, but I can't help it. I reckon if we all (the western suburban world) embraced some food traditions and techniques for food acquisition, we'd have a better world for our children.

I often wonder if the more the effort I put into producing the food I consume (the grow, gather, hunt, fish, barter, share), will it foster more appreciation for it? Will I cherish it any more? It often seems like the case, because when I eat my food I'm often making pretty funny noises, the type you shouldn't be making on your own. But why cherish food in the first place? Well when it's not there and we have hungry bellies when food becomes far too expensive because of rising fuel prices, maybe that question will answer itself.

There isn't much respect for food when all thats required is for you to stretch your arm into the deep freeze at the supermarket and grab a packet of frozen chicken nuggets or when you select some sugar laced chemical enhanced breakfast cereal. There is zero effort in that approach, and surely that has to have some negative effect on our well being. The alternative to stretching your arm into the supermarket deep freeze for chicken nuggets, that is, working for your food (as a lifestyle choice) has given me immense satisfaction in my daily life. I never really felt that satisfaction or contentment prior to my 'WLL' life. And I'm not telling you how to suck eggs, I'm not suggesting this is for everyone, this is just an approach to life that seems to work well for me.

I now will wait 9-12 months to cut open these new jamon. It's not instant food by any stretch. Sure I can walk into a deli and ask for some of the imported stuff to be sliced, and when I run out of my current leg I probably will, but the sense of achievement when I slice my own jamon and share it with people.....well it's a phenomenally beautiful thing.

Thanks Kate for the photos of me. Literally couldn't have done it with out you.