The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer, Part Four – The Brewer 9
In between bites of life the Brewer liked to walk aimless through the veins of the city.
Pilgriming to unknown neighborhoods. Walking helped him arranged his thoughts. He often drifted into the more polished parts of town. On one of those thoughtful strolls he walked by a fancy meat shop.
The front window was boutiquely minimalistic. A single pedestal with a quarter cake giant wedge of ham. The base was littered with dirt covered oddly shaped carrots, radishes, onions and garlics. Vases of fresh thyme and oregano stood as sentinels.
The deep burgundy-red glittery ham was silent at first. Seams of marble fat broke its solidity. Like white canyons within the wise meat freed by the knife. The ham was strong but lonely, its stare obtrusively penetrating. A bottle of Lopez de Heredia whispered in its ear.
Everything around it was there to serve it. It had an announcer, a neat sharp tag with a trombone diction read Bellota Ham.
The ham spoke to him. It told a story. It told a beginning. You already know the middle. The end? The end is still open.
Minutes before dusk, father and son were walking on the edge of an old oak forest climbing a small hill. They could see the dim glow of the house lights over the hill. The boy carried a basket full with acorns and a few mushrooms on top of them.
The old farmer halted with a smile. He stepped into a dusty kidney-shaped shallow trench. The one that grazing donkeys roll around in to shake off insects and heat. The same they relieved themselves of the bricks of indigestible waste in. The trench was formed and shaped by years of repeating those two actions. A fine layer of compost filled it in. a glowing stench of decomposed fesses domed the area. This was exactly what mushrooms loved.
The old farmer knelt next to a solitary cluster of three mushrooms growing against each other. All different sizes even though they had the exact same upbringing. The tallest was like an umbrella over its brothers. It was the thirstiest but the most substance-less. The shorter once were small but dense with flavor. The old farmer knew that from experience. He carefully cut the stumps very low so they can grow back. He exited the stinky halo and tossed them in the basket.
Over the hill the house windows were glowing poetically yellow.
‘One day all this will be yours.’ Looked down the father as they approached the house.
It was a Bellota Ham farm. One of the very best in Spain. With recorded history and traditions back to medieval times. In the town of Jabuyo in the Huelva province. The epicenter of Controlled Origin ham production. Nearly the entire economy of the town was driven by the production of ham. There were many butchers but only one baker and one brewer. The main town square was called ‘La Plaza del Jamon’.
Bellota Ham is highly regarded as the best ham in the world. It is certainly the most expensive piece of meat money can buy.
It is produced exclusively in Southern Spain and tiny bit of Portugal. Its production is governed and quality and origin rigidly controlled. It is also known as ‘pata negra.’ Because it can only be produced from black Iberian pigs or cross bread pigs as long as they are seventy-five percent Iberian. The Pigs wonder free-range in the native oak forests. In the oak groves they feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns, roots and truffles. They are the happiest pigs in the world. Unintellectual, without a worry on their mind. Free and open-minded enough never to have to say sorry. Their only hobby is debauchery and they are good at it. They get up early and vanish into the forests, on their feet all day, nose in the gutter, working hard to find a piece of solace. Egocentric but introverted they are only a social as they need to be in order to survive. Their only goal is getting fatter. They don’t smile but they have a special type of grunt for all the four emotions they embody. Optimism, pessimism, fear and humble joy.
The world of the black Iberian pig is for the most part full of positive emotions and treats until slaughtering time approaches.
They are confined and their diet is limited to olives and acorns (bellota in Spanish).
Bellota Ham is cured for two to four years. It is deep red in color and it has a melt-in-your-mouth flavor that is unparalleled. The finest ham in the world.
Demand for it has always been higher than supply. So. A diligent farm like this one was a prosperous business. The only time they had a surplus was during the 2036 World Depression. They had to give the ham away.
They reached the house, washed up at the well and walked in, leaving behind the smiling starry sky and symphony of crickets and frogs.
There were several families of workers living on the farm. The women had been cooking all day. Everyone was around the table telling their day’s worth of humorous mishaps. Laughing and mapping the next day.
‘Pass me the sauce.’ Inquired Vinnie to the far edge of the table.
He poured most of it on his macaroni under the mildly scrutinizing eyes of his table neighbors.
‘I like a lot of sauce. I like to dip my bread in it at the end.’ He clarified proudly.
People shrugged and the level of clutter gravitated back to evenly normal.
‘I don’t like a lot of sauce!’ Stated Iron the leader of Vinnie’s so called opposition. Followed by everyone glancing at his plate.
‘At least they are not going to fight over sauce.’ Someone joked good humoredly about their rivalry.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of The Baker, The Butcher and the Brewer – Tuesday, March 15.
previous chapter: The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer – The Brewer 8
all chapters: The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer
more by PETER ODEON
photograph by Lan Lanister