Marc Prablek, Princeton University
It almost goes without saying that no journey through Spain, at least from a culinary point of view, is complete without eating jamón ibérico. As such, eating the famous Spanish dish was near the top of my to-do list during my time in Toledo. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of jamón ibérico vendors in the city, and just west of the arch of the Plaza de Zocodover lies El Trébol, a bar that a classmate recommended.
The atmosphere is interesting to say the least, as the mood lighting inside the restaurant changes colors from green to teal to sky blue to violet, standing in stark contrast to the browns and yellows of the stones of the surrounding buildings. There are also lower and upper floors filled with chairs and tables, but without a single diner there. Perhaps it’s more popular during the afternoon than during the hour approaching midnight.
Whatever the reason, five of my friends and I sat down at a table and awaited our ham. The plate of ham was 12 euro, but split between the six of us, it was a bargain. I think I can speak for the rest of my party when I say that we were duly impressed when it arrived. The ham itself was arranged in a circle in the center of the plate, mixed with cubes of manchego cheese and small pieces of chorizo. In a ring outside the ham lay pieces of bread sprinkled with olive oil. I instinctively prepared a piece. Cheese on top of ham on top of bread. My taste buds were greeted with the dry, sweet taste of the manchego, followed by a smoky, rich ham unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, and at the end, a doughy bread that terminated with a satisfying crunch.
The taste of jamón ibérico is most comparable to prosciutto, somewhat predictably, and to the jamón serrano that is also available in Spain, which, as far as I can tell, is prepared in a similar way, but without the pedigree that jamón ibérico pigs have. The jamón I had, however, had a stronger taste and fuller texture than either prosciutto or jamón serrano, making it one of the most interesting things I’ve tasted, certainly an element of my time in Spain that I’ll never forget.