Fausto Zamora (Fall 2011)-CIEE Alcalá: taken form the pig, even the way they walk.
Taken from the pig, even the way they walk.
Many foreigners are shocked when they learn about the variety of meat products coming from pigs that is consumed in Spain. To the omnipresent ham leg, with its diverse varieties, and prices that then determine its quality, we shouldn’t add only stuffed sausages – chorizo, spiced sausages, pork sausage, blood sausage, cured pork loin, and other types of sausage that don’t even have en English translation (morcones, chistorras, butifarras), etc. – but also all parts of the pig –the face, ears, pork bacon, the tail, ribs, spine – that tend to be the traditional accompaniment of the typical bean dishes – lentils, green beans and chick peas – and stews. Whereas other cultures only have two or three names to refer to this tasty meat –sausage, ribs, pork or fillets – the Spaniards go above and beyond with dozens and dozens of words, whether in Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Basque or Galician.
To understand why there is so much variety, we must keep in mid that up until the 1960s, Spain was mainly a rural country, with developing roads and where families had to feed a couple of pigs which, after the slaughter, would give all of the products previously mentioned, whether it be for their own consumption or to sell.
The slaughter, currently on the route of becoming extinct and in some regions of the country it is declared cultural interest, came about to put an end to the life of the pig (or one of the many Spanish names: cerdo, gocho, marrano, cochino, puerco, guarro, etc.) that took place only after the first cold days of Fall, since the sacrifice of the animal required very cold days without humidity from the rain. The calendar of the saints precisely marked the date, the day of Saint Martin , November 11th. “To every pig arrives his Saint Martin”, (“A todo guarro le llega su San Martín”,) an expression that means that anything (or anyone) that does something bad ends up paying for it or will be punished. “For Saint Andrew, kill your animal,” (“Por San Andrés, mata tu res”) November 30th, came to be the exit flag. The neighbors gathered together early in the morning. The men were the ones in charge of taking the animal out of the swineherd, into the farmyard, and holding it down tight so that the most skillful person (man or woman) would slit its throat and, after burning its skin and getting rid the hair with aromatic herbs, opening up a clean canal to the intestines, as to not ruin the meat. The women were the ones in charge of collecting the blood while the animal was still alive, mixing it to prevent clotting and then immediately after mixing it with fat –lard from other slaughters- spices and onions, to stuff it all into previously treated and dried intestines. Once the mixture was stuffed in the guts, it was cooked in plenty of water and the blood sausages were all ready.
Once the animal was skinned and bled, the next step was to cut it into pieces, thighs (2), shoulders (2) and that way each piece was used appropriately to make chorizo sausages and other stuffed sausages or to be cured (salting or smoked). As you can see, there is a lot of work and collaboration that goes into this. The slaughter was the best social interaction therapy, in most recent terms, “with the help of a neighbor, my father killed the pig” (“con la ayuda de un vecino, mató mi padre el gorrino”).
In addition, and also to better understand the close connection that Spain has with this totemic animal, I must say that, even if only slightly, eating pork assumed a kind of religious test. Knowing that in the Iberian Peninsula, with Spain being made up of Castile and Aragon in the 15th century, the coexistence of Christianity, Hebrew and Islam had begun to collapse. The Jews were obligated to convert to Christianity (conversos) or leave Spain. Centuries later, the same would happen to the Muslims (moriscos). For the ones who stayed, buying pork, raising pigs and eating it was a much more reliable proof of their conversion to Christianity than going to Catholic mass or to a religious procession during the Catholic holidays. The Inquisition did not have the slightest doubt of rejecting those accusations when there was proof of such practices as the authentic Christian eating pork.
To conclude, Babe could have done little or nothing to lessen the love that we Spaniards have for this animal and its meat.