Cheese and charcuterie boards are nothing more than just piles of meat and cheese, despite your foodie friend trying to convince you that it actually takes skill to put one together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for any excuse to eat as much meat and cheese as humanly possible. But you can’t bullshit a bullshitter – throwing a bunch of meat onto a Boos block ain’t exactly cooking a five-course meal for the Queen of England.
But for whatever reason (again, not complaining), eating straight meat with your hands is considered classy once you reach your mid-20s. Hosts and hostesses alike stop serving Sabra and store bought buff-chick dip and start serving charcuterie boards because it screams, “Look! I’m class and put in effort.” In exchange, your obligated to hand them a $11.99 bottle of wine that you bought on your way over. Yeah, you’ll eventually drink it when their stock starts running dry, but it’s the thought that counts.
The problem with charcuterie, though, is that it’s difficult to decipher what is what. Unless you “spent some time in Italy” (read: studied abroad and put on 20 pounds over the course of a summer), you probably have no idea what is what. Here’s your go-to guide.
Telling someone you like prosciutto is like telling someone you like dry white wines. It makes you sound basic but, at the same time, you’re not wrong. Prosciutto makes pretty much everything better – sandwiches, chicken salad, regular salads, and yeah, cheeseboards. If there’s a package of that stuff sitting in the refrigerator, there’s a high chance I’m just going to start piling it in my mouth, which I imagine is the Italian equivalent of chugging milk out of the gallon.
The best shit comes from the northern Italian city, Parma, and is called “Prosciutto di Parma.” Real creative, guys. It’s kind of like how Champagne can only come from the Champagne region in France, another fact that won’t impress anyone if you spout it off at a party.
Sopressata essentially looks like sausage but with more white fatty stuff in the middle of it. It’s that meat that you bite into, realize your jaw isn’t strong enough to puncture completely, so you just end up shoving the entire thing into your mouth hoping no one else at the party notices. It’s normally made from pork and hung to dry for three months, which seems like a really like time considering you floss after eating a steak because you can’t stand having the meat in your mouth for more than three minutes.
Pro-Tip: Even though a slice of this stuff looks like it could act as a vehicle for toppings (read: stoneground mustard and cornichons), you should still use a cracker just so you don’t look like a dude who’s using a piece of meat as a fucking cracker.
Oh yeah, now we’re in the good stuff. The stuff that can set you apart from the serfs. Once you start talking Jamon Ibericos and Jamon Serranos, that’s when you begin to sound like someone who definitely took wine tasting classes as a means to meet someone rather than hopping on Bumble. Good for you.
This is pretty much like your normal prosciutto, but more dope. You have to venture out of Italy and head over to Spain and Portugal for this shit. It comes from black Iberian pigs who are “raised and fed according to very strict standards to ensure the very best tasting ham.” Class, class, class.
It’s tough to find, so if anyone has a good Jamon Iberico dealer out there, please forward along for information. I’m not saying I can hook you up with my caviar guy, but I’m also not saying I can’t.
This looks wildly similar to Jamon Iberico, so maybe wait until everyone has a few Cabernets before you start spouting off your knowledge. It’s made from bootleg pigs; not those black Iberian ones. They’re fed feed rather than grass, herbs, acorns, and roots.
Imagine your friend who shops at Trader Joes and then imagine your friend who shops at Whole Foods. Iberico is Whole Foods (free-range, overpriced, bougie as hell) while Serrano is Trader Joe’s (more reasonably priced, not as high quality, white people still love it).
This ain’t your breakfast burrito chorizo that you’re buying out of the case from Whole Foods. This looks like Sopressata, but more orange in color. Don’t tell people at this dinner party that, though. Just hit them with a, “Wow, this chorizo is delectable.” Clarifying that you know it’s chorizo because it’s more orange-y is pretty much saying that you drink Bud Light Lime and actually enjoy it.
It’s made from ground pork, pimentón, and spices. Again, refrain from using this as a vehicle for whatever your host is pairing it with because this is not, in fact, a cracker despite that it can easily act as one. Save that for when you host your own charcuterie party and you have leftovers. Once the party clears out and your shitty friend is passed out on your couch, that’s when you can start loading this into your mouth covered in mustard and pickles. Live your truth.
You know when you order an Italian Night Club from Jimmy John’s when you’re super hungover and need a sub so fast that you’re about to freak? Yeah, that’s capicola on that beast.
And if that didn’t gross you out enough, this will. It comes from the Italian words for “head” (capo) and “neck” (collo). “This is some good-ass neck,” is not something you should say while complimenting the host. It’s common that this packs some punch in the form of spiciness, so make sure you’re washing it down with a mellow red rather than a glass of champagne. The carbonation will only add to the problem and you’ll be begging for indigestion come night end.
Capicola, but beef instead of pork. It’s leaner than most other charcuterie meats, so don’t be surprised if you hear Joe Rogan say that this is his favorite varietal. You can identify this on the board because it’s dark in color just like your teeth and lips after you finish the bottle of pinot you brought.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Yeah, your wine-mouth will make you look hammered, but at least you can tell the difference between Ibericos and Serranos. .
Image via Shutterstock