Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 25, 2006

the meat we eat

Filed under: food/groceries,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 10:36 am

Spaniards have a different relationship with meat than we Americans do. We don’t really want to know which animal, or part thereof, we are consuming. The more our meat can be altered in shape or form, tightly wrapped, and stacked in sterile-looking glass cases, the better we like it. Not here. There are whole legs of jamon, complete with hooves, hanging in every establishment, and even in modern supermercados with pre-packaged meats you can’t avoid reminders that the flesh you are about to take home and grill was walking or strutting or hopping around recently.

Conejo (rabbit) is common, and when you see a complete skinned hare stretched out in the butcher’s case there is no pretending it’s not related to the animal we know as a pet or a chocolate-egg deliverer. The lamb section has photos of cute fuzzy white creatures memorialized in nursery rhymes. The whole chickens are more whole than you think—when you unwrap the plastic you find the head tucked under the body. I am not used to having to decapitate before roasting (except for fish, I suppose).

But the prime example of “too much information” is the beef department. Not only is there a wall poster of what Evan calls a “cow map,” with about 20 sections labeled, but also each package tells you specifics of provenance more detailed than that of some art at the Met. Yesterday I bought “Filetes finos de piernas de añojo para planchar o empanar,” (thin filets of leg of year-old calf to grill or coat in breadcrumbs) and was informed by the label that it was nacido (born) in Spain, engordado (fattened) in Spain, sacrificado (butchered) in Spain, and despiece (cut up) in Spain. I’m not squeamish, but “sacrifice” and “dismemberment” are not words I want to have running around in my head while cooking or eating beef. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t learned so much of the language.

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