Rio San Juan, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Dominican Republic
At a hotel in the DR, we’d just finished a good but modest, very Dominican lunch of fish, rice, and beans. About to return to the beach, we notice a group of people checking in and can tell by their accents that they’re from Spain. We ask and learn they’re from San Sebastián, so excitedly tell them we’d honeymooned in Basque Country, that it’s among our favorite places on Earth, especially for food. In response one of their massive trunks is opened, revealing a giant leg of cured ham—jamón Ibérico, only the best ham in Spain if not the world. It’s certainly my favorite ham in the world! (Don’t tell prosciutto di Parma, a close second.) Next thing we know, they’re asking the hotel’s bartender/server to slice off some ham and pour the wine—a bottle they’d also brought from Spain—and a plate of pork is soon pushed our way. Stuffed already from lunch, I dutifully eat a few pieces, wishing to hoard the rest for later. But what a marvelous thing, meeting these travelers who couldn’t bear to leave behind their favorite food from home, who dug it out like treasured loot and found strangers with whom to proudly share before they so much as peeked into their hotel rooms. While I hoped they tried some Dominican foods on their trip, I was exhilarated by this brief, unexpected taste of Spain in the Caribbean—and by the intense passion for good ham that provoked it.