In Pedro Almodovar’s 1984 film, Que he hecho yo para merecer esto?, a leg of cured ham features as an uncommon murder weapon. Following the end of the Franco regime, the director understood that the taboos established by the dictator had to be undone to reflect the proliferation of modernity in Spanish life. As Carmen Maura’s character bludgeons her abusive husband, an axiom of Spanish tradition collided against the institution of marriage; that which was truly permanent met what was only nominally permanent. The weapon was telling, even from afar: if there is one enduring and identifiable facet of Spanish culture that even Brits can hang onto, it’s jamón.
Dry ham accounts for roughly a third of the packaged meat market in Spain. A very stable category, it is growing steadily, Luis Fernandes, Global Customer and Shopper Director at Campofrio Food Group, told the Shopper Insight Conference (Amsterdam, October 2018). Originally from Portugal, but with eight years in Spain under his belt, Fernandes has observed the country’s weakness from a useful distance. “It’s not a category of the old people,” he said, “the whole society is growing the category.”