I’m a big fan of handmade things, as my readers know. Whether it’s bread or furniture, I think the skill of the artisan imbues in raw materials something far greater than the sum of its parts. I was recently commanded by my wife to stop at the farmer’s market and get some chorizo from the cured meat stand. This is a new stand to our little farmer’s market and I found it manned by a guy with ponytail and facial hair that looked like he stepped straight from the cover of a Doobie Brothers record. Even better, he referred to everyone as brother and sister. “Hey brother, try out a sample of this.” He had half a dozen types of cured meats wrapped in brown paper, and a tiny gas grill to make fresh hot sandwiches. My interest piqued and stomach growling, I ordered the creatively-named “meat sandwich”. Let me tell you, brother, this sandwich needs some better marketing because it’s way more than a sandwich. The owner sliced off thin discs of several different cured meats with a mandoline, topped it with fresh arugula, arrayed a fan of sliced peppercorn goat cheese, topped the mountain of food with a swirl of chimichurri sauce, and packed it inside a grilled baguette.
I guess I’ve never really had a meat sandwich before. The complexity and richness of flavor was so phenomenal I had to restrain myself from eating the sandwich’s paper wrapper when I was done. Let me explain it like this: fine cured meat is like fine wine in that the flavor builds in waves. In the first taste you get spice and heat, then a rich earthy base, notes of herbs, and a long timpani-roll of a finish. With one bite of chorizo you could enjoy ten seconds of evolving flavor, so an entire sandwich of different cured meats was a true symphony.
For lunch the next day I had only slices of chorizo and chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano. Sometimes it doesn’t cost much to lead a rich life.