Monday, 17 December 2007

Jamon Jamon?

Angel Cardoso pictured lives in Lara Victoria. On this day last year Primesafe [the body that governs meat processing in Victoria] raided his property and removed all his stock of naturally matured Spanish style smallgoods and took them away to be destroyed. The stock amounted to many hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, for my money, the best charcuterie being made in Australia at that time. Angel is over 70 fit and feisty years old, and for the last 30 years or so has devoted his life to bringing to Australia the wonderful tastes of his native Spain in the form of Jamon, Lomo, Chorizo, Morcilla and such. Products that are now at the forefront of a very neophillic food culture in Australia. At about the same time last year or just before, the laws governing the importation of Jamon from Spain and other European countries were relaxed and naturally made Jamon using the same techniques as Angel used were allowed to be imported. And boy do we know about those now! The explanation that primesafe made was that Cardoso smallgoods were a threat to human consumption. No general alert was issued and it was possible to purchase product from reputable suppliers for months until they ran out. As far as I know no samples were kept for analysis to back up the claim that they were dangerous. I have known Angel for over 15 years and during that time have enjoyed and used in the restaurant many hundreds of kilos of his wonderful products with not one incident to suggest they were in any way dodgy. Over the years Angel's fame grew and many good restaurants and delis proudly sold his products. From Anthony Bourdain to Stephanie Alexander he was hailed as a pioneer with many palates pleased over the years. Angel is a very proud and sometimes difficult man totally devoted ,you could say fanatically, to his craft.
His reputation, as well as his livelihood has been destroyed. He now has to watch imported products take over the market with little chance of a local maker willing to take up the challenge of making these artisan goods in this country for a long while. His dream is to teach some young people to prepare them. I miss them so much. After tasting some of the imported Jamon I can honestly say that none of them have the vibrant flavours that Angel's have. Angel's products are unique full of life like a living cheese. No Roquefort style funeral was offered for the hundreds of Jamon, just a sad anonymous end at an unknown tip?

While you are enjoying this year's festivities have a good look at the ham you are eating.
The powers that be have allowed imported Canadian pork to be fused to a local pig bone to make ham that is allowed to be sold here. I am not saying that they are a threat to "human consumption" but it does not seem like an improvement to me. If Angel was more articulate, better connected and less proud, this would have been the biggest food story of 2007. There is more to this than we have been told.
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neil said...

I was deeply saddened when I heard about what happened to Angel, his smallgoods were a regular feature on our table. My feeling at the time was there was more to the story, but I wasn't surprised that at 70, Angel chose not to continue. If he ever announces a course in smallgoods manufacture, even if it's the old way, I will be his first student.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Yes, Neil we will definately have a ay with Angel here next year. I want to organise a blind taste test with the imported products. Also a class on Spanish smallgoods. He may yet get back into it... its not quite over yet.

t h e - g o b b l e r said...

G'day George, looking forward to reading more about the school.

I suspect that there is more to this sad story also.
Why is it made so dammed hard for forward thinking artisans to get their unique product out into the homogony of our food landscape?
So much leverage is gained by the tourism departments for their marketing strategies to lure travelers on the virtues of the sophisticated food culture here.
Yet we scythe producers down, like this bloke, because he didn't fit the mould.
I really dont get it.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Mr.B
Saw Angel today he is like a man marooned. More on this later its not over quite yet.. Re tourism I have added the first part of a Tourism Project to the blog under rescources called A Sense of Place, will post the produce guide second part as soon as I can get the technology to work. Is a bit long but you may interested. The man who commisioned it. Roger Grant for Geelong Otway Tourism gave me complete freedom. I have been "bollocked" over it by the local partisan press but many have also commented favourably with a lot of the ideas picked up all over the place.
I love Tasmania and feel that it will develop into some of our best food and wine destinations.
Hope you get through the big dinner rush that is the silly season.

grocer said...

Clearly there is more to this story than meets the eye, and I would only presume that there must be some avenue for recourse, if the resources are available.

Meantime, in line with gobbler's thoughts, this is just another example of our bureaucratic, nanny state getting it wrong! Once again the small guy pays the price whilst the big offenders manage to smoothe their corporate way out of it.

very sad. indeed!

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

This particular case is quite tricky. We can easily be seen to be conspiracy theeory grassy knoll kibitzers, but never the less Primesafe have never said why it was at this particular time that they took action. He has beem producing for over 25 years. I have seen documents as late as Sept 2007 where all lab tests came back perfect.
Angel has due to his lack of clear English and a real fanatical attitude to some issues alienated, a large part of the press so most won't go near the story.
I read about a similar situation in the States where if you purchased a particular less than legal cheese you were charged a small nominal fee that made you a part owner in the manufacturer's business that made you exempt from the rules relating to its maufacture. You were merely sampling your own production. This would be the same as making salami at home but not selling it. I have got some legal eagles looking at it. Any thoughts welcome.

melissa ridgway said...

Poor, poor Angel. I never realised the extent of what happened as l was OS at the time. I shall never forget the day l went to Angel's Lara premises 12 years ago and had a personal tour. The wonderful perfume from the hundreds of salami hanging was worth bottling like perfume. And the best Angel cooking slices of chorizo in his electric frypan........wonderful! Who had even heard of chorizo back then or Jamon, what a guy! Way ahead of his time like so many of us back then and punished for what? So very sad!