The Spanish have an obsession with ham. It’s a bit like the internet’s own tiresome obsession with bacon, but less frequently acknowledged and therefore harder to fight against.
It certainly makes being a vegetarian difficult: a quondam housemate, a Spanish vegetarian, told us that basically it was a daily living hell from which there was no escape. Chinese restaurants put ham in their egg fried rice; nachos with cheese have a sprinkling of ham on them, almost like a condiment; and almost every tapas that might be vegetarian-friendly is adulterated in some way with ham or fish.
For our train trip down, however – the first time we were to travel the entire route from London to Barcelona in daylight – we stocked up on as many snacks as we could. That way we could at least circumvent both France and Spain’s disdain for our abstaining from meat and the rest. Yet as we passed through Nîmes and Montpellier St. Roch, we found our supplies dwindling, so K. trekked off to the TGV’s buffet car, with instructions to try to find something healthy, to see what they might provide us with.
It was only after the first couple of spoonfuls of our “natural” yoghurts, that we both began idly reading the ingredients, and found they including gelatine. How pig fat is a “natural” component of any yoghurt-based food, I couldn’t say; and why you’d use it, when God invented pectin several millions of years ago, I couldn’t say either: but we had to grudgingly accept that once again, tangentially and ingeniously, we had fallen for the Spanish obsession with putting ham in everything.