Mere Mortals Confront the Ultimate Ham

Don’t tell the Department of Homeland Security.Photo: Everett Bogue

It’s the ultimate prize, the holy grail for pork-lovers: the famed jamón ibérico de bellota, the black-footed, acorn-fed Spanish ham. It’s illegal in this country, but one of our meat operatives managed to smuggle a bit across the border. We arranged a little taste test among some New York staffers to see what the ham — about which Casa Mono chef Andy Nusser says: “Once you taste ibérico, you can't compare it to anything else" — tastes like to non-foodies. Would the man in the street be as moved? We didn’t tell our panel the ham’s identity, or hint of its vast, cultlike fame. Their reactions?

“It smelled stronger than it tasted.”
“Tastes like bacon with the bacon taken out of it.”
“Um, it seems kind of fishy.”
“If you ate anything with this, its taste would disappear.”
“It looks like it’s supposed to be fried.”

Overall, the panel was less than overwhelmed with the ham’s greatness. But then, the cost of genius is being misunderstood. Or $150 a kilo, depending on where you sit.

Earlier: The Ham That Drives Men Mad