TREVELEZ is not a good place to be a pig in the same sense Morecambe Bay is not a good place to be a shrimp or Aberdeen a good place to be a big meaty bull. Herring have a similar problem with Mallaig and the Isle of Man where, if they’re not careful, they can find themselves converted into kippers. Haddock face an identical fate in Arbroath and an afterlife as an Arbroath smokie; turkeys hesitate before visiting Norfolk; and only ducks that can stare death in the face and quack at adversity have any stomach for Aylsebury . . .
Trevelez is the capital of the Alpujarran jamon industry, jamon (pronounced hamon) being the air-cured ham for which the region is famous. Many towns and villages in this corner of Andalucia produce their own jamon, but Trevelez jamon is considered the best. It rises head and haunches above all others, in the same way Manx and Mallaig kippers have aspired to the pinnacle of kipperdom.
Trevelez, reclining precariously at an elevation of 1,476 metres, is the highest village in Spain. I’ve seen it reported that it’s the highest village in Europe that’s permanently occupied. The rarefied air renders it practically perfect for pig processing plants.
What puzzles me, though, is where all the pigs live. Their legs can be found in almost every building, hanging from ceilings and beams and in various stages of the curing process. But where are the pigs?
I wander up a hill to the highest point of the village, hoping to catch a telltale snort on the wind or the click-clack of trotters in an alley. Nothing. I huff and I puff along streets too narrow for cars but sufficiently comfortable for two pigs to canter abreast if the fancy takes them, pushing my snout into places it shouldn’t really be pushed. Still nothing.
Morecambe Bay shrimps come from Morecambe Bay, Dublin Bay prawns from Dublin Bay. But the handsome pigs that provide Trevelez jamon are leading a double life. The mystery remains unsolved. It’s time for someone – or something – to squeal.