Every year, on my birthday, my dad sends me the same gift from Sevilla, Spain, and every year, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Chato,” he says on the phone in his thick accent, “Cinco Jotas (5 J’s) is the number one ham in Spain. They feed the pig a special acorn – you can find it nowhere else in the world – and this is why Cinco Jotas is number one.”
I gotta tell you something: he’s right. It’s like the best prosciutto you ever had, only better.
I’ve visited many tapas bars in Sevilla and Madrid, and there really is no better jamon serrano than Cinco Jotas.
This year he sent it in a beautiful metal case with a special little surprise: chorizo from El Corte Ingles, an upscale department store.
He just turned 83 eleven days ago – 83 – and I found myself savoring the savory treat even more than usual: don’t know how many more care packages of Cinco Jotas I can come to expect. Don’t know how many more phone calls bragging about Spanish cuisine and soccer I can come to expect, either. I’m making it a point to really listen to his voice, to really hear it – the words, the cadence, the accent.
My parents divorced when I was six, and I didn’t see much of my dad after that. But those six years he was at home, and the occasional weekend I saw him after that, have left indelible marks on me.
I love his handwriting.
My son Rafael and I enjoyed the jamon and chorizo he sent watching “El Classico,” the annual soccer match between arch rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Well, I mostly watched, he mostly ate. But we did it together.
By the way, my dad will tell you jamon serrano is best enjoyed room temperature with manchego cheese, water crackers, and wine (I don’t know much about wine, and neither does he, so I couldn’t recommend one for you – but rioja sounds about right to me…)
Salt and fat and my father’s charming accent? What else do you need?