Spain always, always surprises. Just when one thinks they have heard of all the festivals, another one springs forth, bubbling with people, chatter, and celebration – celebration of life from the tiny to momentous.
By Robin Graham
Through the mist and rain they came. From every corner of Spain and indeed the world – some had travelled thousands of kilometres to be here. Two hundred were to come but only a hundred and sixty-one made it. Never mind – it was enough.
Many of them won’t even have heard of this little mountain town before, completely hidden from view below the winding road that connects the coastal highway with famous Ronda. To local foodies, however, it is the venue for an annual food festival – the Feria Gastronómica de la Serrania de Ronda – that showcases the products and know-how of the area each February. Wines and oils, sweets, cheeses, bread and meats, leather and spices – there is no shortage of expertise.
I go every time and the last two years have seemed a little crisis-hit to me. Too quiet. Poorly attended. Not so, 2014. The town is called Benarrabá and let the reader take note that here on the 2nd March of this year, every parking space in it (including the school playground) was occupied. The grand marquee that filled the main square heaved with the crowd that had come to see this army of one hundred and sixty-one, each of them armed with a sharp knife and, most important of all, an Iberico ham.
On a Sunday afternoon so miserably wet you’d have thought people would have stayed away, the ham-slicers, under the supervision of the Guinness Book of World Records and local organizer, Antonio Ramos, were loudly cheered on as they entered the book for the largest gathering of ‘cortadores’ (ham slicers) ever and, my personal favourite, the world’s biggest plate of jamón Iberico. At forty-seven square metres, that’s a lot of ham. Long live the record, and long live this imaginative and energetic little town.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found, with accompanying photography, at alotofwind. He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: Twitter – https://twitter.com/RobinJGraham