Serrano Ham (or suitcase meat and the invincible Squid)
Jamon Serrano, or serrano ham, directly from Spain, is worth making exceptions for. Vegetarians, make an exception, for the pig is already dead. Non-pork eating religious denominations, you may atone for it afterward. People without immunities to Botulism: take the risk.
Usually this tasty Spanish ham doesn’t come with botulism fears. Why not? Well, when cured in the low humidity climate of Spain and if bought leg-in and exposed to plenty of air, botulism is a fairly insignificant concern. But begging for ham can turn into begging for murder. This was the formula:
a) The friend who is visiting Spain also happens to be the same friend who lacks any investigative/google skills. We will call her R.
b) R will loyally bring back meat for her insane friend who asks for meat as souveniers, because good people may lack investigative skills but will bring you back awesome things.
c) She buys the meat on day 3 of 4 in Barcelona; she has yet to spend 3 days in Madrid.
d) R goes to the meat market in Barcelonato search out the meat and also try it for herself and picks the vac-packed slices out as the best way to transport said goods.
The day after her arrival, first thing in the morning, amid hugs and omelets, it is in my hands. I notice it is in a vaccuum pack and ask if I need to refrigerate it. R says she and Tio Felipe, in broken Spanish and English, discussed whether or not the pack would make it in a suitcase, and apparently Tio Felipe assured her that it would be fine. I shrug and stick it in my purse. Yup. My purse.
Later that day I go to at my tasty ham, and because I read the language, I start idly reading the label. All of a sudden, in tiny letters near the bottom, I notice: please store between 0 degrees and 9 degrees. I stop cutting it open and think: in the hottest month of the year, she transports this meat from Barcelona to Madrid and to Toronto, where it stays in her bedroom overnight. Not once does it see the inside of a cool white box. My heart falls.
I will continue the story later, and apologize that there is no attractive photo of a glistening plate of luminescnent and mouthwatering meat. I wasn’t able to take a picture of it and I will tell you why.