Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Of Corned Beef, Fasting, Salmon, and Chorizos

This week marks two major food events-- St. Patrick's Day and Holy Week-- both being Christian holidays and unintentional food days.

St. Patrick's Day is known for copious pints of Guinness and corned beef with cabbage. While the pints are truly St. Paddy's Day "fare", this article says that corned beef with cabbage is more of a stereotype. Speaking of corned beef, there is no corn (i.e., maize) in corned beef. The term "corned" refers to the old method of dry-curing beef with grains-- or corns-- of salt. Nowadays, corned beef is cured in salt water (process called brining), but the name has stuck.

Of course, this week is also Holy Week, so there will be no corned beef in Catholic homes on Friday. So when should Catholics really fast and abstain? According to the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1248-1253), "abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday", while abstinence is to be observed on "all Fridays". Note, however, that the bishops' conference (in our case, the CBCP) has final authority to determine what fasting and abstinence entail (Can. 1253). From what I remember of catechism, Catholics (at least Filipino Catholics) may substitute fasting or abstinence for some other act of piety or charity. In my experience, though, fasting is the first penitence to be substituted for piety as abstinence becomes an excuse to enjoy an all-seafood feast.

Speaking of seafood, I am the happy owner of eight 16-ounce fillets of smoked Alaskan sockeye salmon. I have four preferred ways of eating them: as is, in an omelette, with pasta, and sauteed with potatoes. The fillets are smoked and packed by Kasilof Fish Co.; their website-- ILoveSalmon.com-- perfectly describes me. Aside from the eight smoked fillets, I have six cans of salmon chunks and seven fillets of frozen salmon. Salmon ranks up there with bangus and fatty sardines as my all-time favourite fishes. One guess what I'll be abstaining into this coming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Come Easter I'll be all fished out and will be raring to go back to meat. I currently have a pack of Campofrio jamon serrano and a can of La NoreƱense Asturian chorizos in my pantry, and I'm looking for the perfect time (and recipe) to open them. As I said in a previous post, I think Spanish cured meats are the best of their kind out there. The Italians come close with their salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but chorizos, salchichon, and jamon still have a slight edge. I heard somewhere that the Spaniards concocted their great pork dishes and cured meats after the Reconquista, celebrating their freedom to eat pork after kicking out the Moors. Well, that's at least one unambiguously good thing that happened as a result of all those wars.

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