Sunday, March 21, 2004

Speck-tacular! or, Don't Passanda Curry

Crescat Sentatia guest blogger Waddling Thunder asks, What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone for a single ingredient or food?

I will always associate speck with the memory of a Piedmontese girl I had the most debilitating crush on at university. After completing my degree, I was her guest for a few days of a backpacking trip around Europe. Being summer, many of the meals she served involved salads and salumi, which is how I was introduced to speck. The Spanish jamon serrano has been described as the masculine yang to prosciutto's feminine yin. To stretch the metaphor, speck kicks jamon serrano's ass and takes prosciutto home. Quien es mas macho? El speck es mas macho.

After tasting bresaola and coppa, I had mentally filed them under "like prosciutto." But speck was something else. After eating prosciutto, a slightly salty, slightly sweet aftertaste lingers in the mouth. Even though it's not strong, I found that partiality to the aftertaste of prosciutto had to be acquired. (That said, it was not difficult.) Speck I knew I liked immediately. Its flavor was more direct than prosciutto and, thanks to the pepper and juniper, bolder. On a subsequent trip to Europe, I found myself in Harrods the night before my flight home. I decided to test the completeness of Harrods' food halls by seeking out a speck souvenir.

Speaking of the UK, I was introduced to lamb passanda at the Taj Majal on Turl Street in Oxford. I have not yet eaten a lamb passanda that comes close to matching it. I was heartbroken when the Taj closed. I knew I'd probably never eat its like again.


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