When I was eleven, I had my first taste of Jamon Serrano. My mother had brought from Spain an entire Jamon which she placed on a special support (soporte jamonero) just like you see in typical Spanish Tapas places. Back then I had a very big appetite for meat, especially red meat. I am also the type of person who is keen on trying new experiences. Seeing the Jamon, nicely placed on its support, I was practically drawling.
Because we were having company over, I was supposed to wait until dinner was served so I don’t spoil my appetite. My expectations grew so much and I was so eager to taste it, that I was the first one who took a seat at the dinner table. I even asked for extra slices as I was super sure that this new food was going to rock my world.
Haha (still funny now)… I was never so wrong. It smelled just like my football socks used to smell after an entire day of kicking the ball. Oh man, I was so disgusted by it that my mother saw it on my face and started laughing about it.
Four years later I moved to Spain. More often than not, there was a Jamon in the kitchen, with a Jamonero (a special knife for cutting thin slices) placed beside it. At first, I was just ignoring it, seeing it more like a pile of dirty socks than a gourmet food.
At some point, I don’t remember exactly how it happened I started tasting it again. I had small bites from time to time, until this very disgusting food started to grow on me. I still thought it’s super grose, but somehow delicious. It did not take too long until this disgustingly delicious food became one of my favourites, especially Pan Tumaca.
Only after clearing my expectations, but even more importantly, my prejudice I was able to really taste and enjoy this food. Before tasting it, I placed it on a golden throne, on top of all the food I tasted before. A completely non-rational decision, more like a chemical reaction. The closest I got to the “love at first sight” feeling.
After I had a first bite, I was so quick to dismiss it, that I did not even conceive giving something so disgusting another bite. How could I eat this smelly dry meat covered in weird looking fat, bleah. How can so many people eat this crap. It took me a while until I opened my mind and decided to give it another chance.
A fresh mindset opens new doors, doors which were once locked. Arriving at a different answer to a question you’ve answered before is a peculiar feeling. One that enlightens us. We all have our own version of the Jamon story. Could be smelly cheese, could be some other part of life, not related to food. Some of us manage to get to the delicious part, others just spit it out in disgust the first time they try it. They do not dare to taste it again, one mouthfull of digusting is enough.
Although I stopped eating meat all together, this story stuck with me. It taught me a valuable lesson and it especially resonates with me now. I never felt so disgusted about something which was once so delicious… and at the same time, something so disgusting never felt so delicious before.