Spanish Ham in Great Spanish Literature

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As we have already seen, ham is deeply ingrained in Spanish popular culture. A product that has occupied a central place on the tables of the entire peninsula for centuries, today Iberico ham has become part of the backbone of Spanish identity. When you dig a little into the literature of the Spanish-speaking world, we can quickly find references to ham - and not just in the recipe-books!

Ham in the Literature of Antiquity

It is difficult to set a specific date defining the starting point of Spanish ham culture. Certainly, techniques and ways of life of the ancient Iberian settlers produced something like ham long before anyone used the word "ham” in a text!

But if we stick to the documents, the first to mention ham was Cato, who lived in the third and second centuries BC. In his De Agri Cultura, Cato establishes the first recipe with all steps for the development of this product, including how it should be salted, washed, dried, dipped in oil, smoked and conserved.

Jamón en un menú de Pompeya

A menu including ham, from Pompeii

Later, in the first century AD, Strabo refers to hams in his Geographica after a trip through the peninsula. According to him, the Kerretanoi, an Iberian people who inhabited the Western Pyrenees, "produced excellent hams, comparable to the Cantabrians".

Ham and the Golden Age

The Golden Age of Spanish letters left lots of references to ham, at a time when the pork industry was becoming popular throughout the peninsula and a good ham was the ideal companion for any traveler. This fact is reflected in an abundance of references to ham in the literature of the time.

For instance, in La Celestina, Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla says: "There’s enough in the pantry not to fall into starvation: white bread, Montviedro wine and an ham...". The poet Baltasar de Alcazar also cites the ham in the poem Three Things as one of his three favorite things in life besides his beautiful Agnes and eggplant with cheese.

La Celestina - Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea jamón

La Celestina - Tragicomedy of Callisto and Melibea

The fame of the ham-producing regions that today produce the best products is expressed in works of such renowned authors as Cervantes, who in his The Fraudulent Marriage recommends slices of Córdoba ham to cure a convalescent. The same applies to Lope de Vega, in his Epistle to the Accountant Gaspar de Barrionuevo where he refers to Huelva hams: "Spanish ham from the famous Sierra de Aracena.”

Ham and Contemporary Literature

In the year 1958, two Spanish literary giants crossed paths. One, Rafael Alberti, was an exile from Franco’s regime. The other, Nicolás Guillén, met him in Buenos Aires after fleeing the Machado dictatorship in Cuba and then the fascist occupation of France.

Retrato de Rafael Alberti jamón

Portrait of Rafael Alberti

As a token of appreciation, Guillen gave Albertia ham and with it, a sonnet, which Alberti duly answered. The result was a feast of ham, in which several common friends shared a bohemian wedding, reading each other’s sonnets, all on a rainy day.

More recently we can include Camilo José Cela’s comment about ham, which explains that it can be enjoyed through smell, but also by sight and taste. "It has a characteristic of blessed bite", states his strong praise of the ham.

These small fragments serve to get an idea of the importance of this precious delicacy in Spanish society, through their great writers. And in the words of a traditional Spanish saying: "Put me in the sun and give me wine and ham!”



  1. Types of Iberico Ham
  2. How to Consume Iberico Ham
  3. How to Cut Iberico Ham | Carve Iberico Ham
  4. How to Preserve and Store Iberico Ham
  5. Pairing of Iberico Ham
  6. Quality Laws for Iberico Ham | The New Law 2014
  7. The Dehesa | The Meadow
  8. DOP Protected Source of Origin of Iberico Ham
  9. Nutritional Properties of Acorn-fed Iberico Ham
  10. Recipes with Spanish Ham
  11. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Serrano Ham
  12. Differences Between Shoulder and Iberico ham
  13. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Iberico Shoulder
  14. Iberico Ham and its Competitors Around the World
  15. Nutritional Properties of Iberico Ham
  16. Protected Denominations of Origin of Iberico Ham
  17. Production Areas of Spanish Ham and Iberico Ham
  18. Spanish Ham – Machine cut or Hand cut
  19. Museums of Iberico Ham Worldwide
  20. Inside Secrets of Iberico Ham Tasting
  21. Tourist Trails for Iberico Ham Aficionados
  22. Acorn-fed Iberico ham and the ideal pairing
  23. The Production Process of Iberico Sausages
  24. History of Iberico Sausages
  25. VAT and Spanish Ham: Frequently Asked Questions
  26. Spanish Ham in Great Spanish Literature
  27. Curiosities of Iberico ham
  28. How to Store Your Serrano Ham
  29. Regulations and the Quality of Serrano Ham
  30. Preparation of Serrano Ham
  31. Denomination of Origin of Serrano Ham
  32. Nutritional Properties of Serrano Ham
  33. Recipes With Serrano Ham
  34. Types of Serrano Ham
  35. Pairing of Serrano Ham
  36. How to Consume Serrano Ham
  37. How to Cut Serrano Ham | Carve Serrano Ham
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  39. Choosing a Good Ham Holder
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  43. Is the term pata negra correct?
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  46. How to buy ham from online stores
  47. Myths and Truths, Benefits and Prejudices of Ham
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  55. New Technologies and Ham – MRI in Ham Tasting – Spectral Images
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  58. Production of Hams and Pork Shoulder Hams
  59. Iberian Ham Tasting Guide
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Ham carving manual

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