Restaurant review: Don Jamon, Madrid, Spain.
At first glance this hole-in-the-wall serving up delicious Spanish staples, mostly Tortilla Espanol (potato omelet) and Bocatos de Jamon (ham sandwiches on crusty rolls) sees both innocuous and convenient. Located right off Gran Via and within a five minute walk to Plaza de Sol, the epicenter not just of Madrid but Spain itself, and placed right between a Starbucks and an internet café, this inexpensive and tasty eatery practically screams “convenience”. Until you consider the geography and that is where things turn just a tad bit messy. Don Jamon is located directly across the street from Hotel Emperador, a majestic building which while not in practice but certainly in name harkens back to the faded glory of the Spanish Empire. A large part of the poetry and philosophy of the glory of the Spanish Golden Age was centered the concept of “what’s next?” followed by “There is nothing next”. This is not the case at Don Jamon. You can order anything you want next but it’s mostly limited to pig products and eggs products. So on to the food. While I am a big fan of Spanish potato omelet it is not too soon to revisit some of my earlier points. Obviously the Spaniards were the biggest and most egregious plunderers of the New World: flaying slaves, raping women and most importantly ripping out tubers from their native soil and bringing them back to Europe for further exploitation. The egg is a symbol of resurrection, and it also a symbol of femininity being a by-product of the avian menstrual cycle. Combining potatoes and eggs in this context is nothing more nor less than a bipolar attempt at both atonement and dominance. The egg in the omelet becomes a type of feminization of the aggressive Catholic policy of the Spanish Crown, gently oozing its arms around the helpless Peruvian spud. There is a reason why there is no ham in the omelet for that would be too obvious a symbol of colonial domination and the Spanish through their insidious conversion of the native people they conquered, from the Americas to the Philippines and parts in between knew exactly how to coddle their subjects. (Is this where the term “coddled egg” comes from? Perhaps). By cloaking her ultimately sinister motives, Spain seems to whitewash her colonial legacy. Whereas ham is concerned, this could be a preventive device to deflect from her guilt even if done in a joking fashion e.g.”Don’t be a ham”. On the other hand, no matter your political beliefs and allegiances, one must remember that Gran Via was the scene of great fighting during the Spanish Civil War. While there are still older (and some younger people) who thought Nazi Spain was a good idea, if for nothing else than that Franco refused to officially join the Axis, the fact that potatoes, eggs, ham and bread can at least live together in delicious harmony in this one little corner is a testament to the resilience of the newly resurgent Spanish nation where everyone finally bonded together to form a new democratic society under El Rey Juan Carlos and they did it successfully with a bond as strong as eggs and potatoes.