January 25, 2009
There are a few things an Argentinean cannot live without: mate, wine, beef, and jamon. And some pasta is always nice, too, along with some crusty bread smeared with dulce de leche…but I digress.
From its copious number of Italian immigrants, not to mention the Spanish who have their own porcine pride, Argentina has inherited a national obsession with pork in all its forms.
Jamon Cocido, Jamon Serrano, Mortadella, Chorizo, Bondiola, Morcillas, Pate, Salame (also a slang term for calling someone a goof ball or fool, as in "Este chico es un salame!" "That guy is a salami!") There are so many different kinds of fiambre, the mind reels.
Many people in the rural area around my in-laws' farm have made their own sausages, chorizos, and salami for years with the pigs raised on their own farm. But the fiambreria (literally, place of cold cuts) is a local staple where fresh ham, cheese, and other corner market commodities are sold. This particular store also has a cold case full of trays of homemade gnocchi, long strings of fresh pasta, and tapas for empanadas. There can be any number in town, but every family has one they are loyal to.
Every meal at my in-laws' table starts with a juice glass full of Malbec, a hunk of crusty bread, a wedge of sharp cheese, and some kind of ham. It can be the slices of ham pictured below, or a thick link of salami. The cheese and ham are set out on an old wooden board, the bread just out of the paper bag from the bakery. The wine, from the La Bowense Bodega across the street, is poured from a huge jug into a smaller pitcher using a plastic green funnel. Both are kept on the cool tile floor of the pantry.
And that's how we wet our throats, and whet our appetites–preparing to break bread by breaking bread, adding on a little jamon, a little cheese, and partaking in a long-standing tradition of eating and strengthening the fibers of family.