by Don Harris | January 2010

Extremadura is one of our very favorite regions of Spain -- it reminds us a little of the Wild West of Texas. The countryside is open and expansive: dry plains, mountains, marshes, meadows and fields. Tourists have not discovered the region so you can go for days just enjoying the landscape and the warm and hospitable people.

The most important area is called the dehesa which is a remnant of the forest which formerly covered all of Europe. It is in this setting where the free range Ibérico pigs are enjoying the countryside eating herbs and acorns among the cork and oak trees. When we walked among them, we carefully sidestepped mud holes where they were blissfully wallowing. They showed a mellow disinterest...

In Extremadura the cooking is almost always simple and straightforward. They have many pork dishes, and some of their soft cheeses, such as those from the towns of Serena and Casar are particularly prized.

Much of the cuisine traces its origins to the convents and abbeys which extended hospitality to visitors in the form of shelter and good food. Yuste sheltered Emperor Charles V when he was weary of the politics of the Holy Roman Empire. The Monastery of Guadalupe was tucked in a valley in rugged mountains, and was a favorite destination of Ferdinand and Isabella – sort of a mountain hideaway. Today it is a ruggedly beautiful drive from Avila and Madrid to the north, and a gradual climb from Trujillo.

It was from Trujillo that many of the restless younger sons left to seek their fortune in the New World. It remains an attractive rural town with a wonderful plaza with a magnificent modern statue dedicated to the hometown Pizarro brothers, conquistadores of their town who conquered Peru.

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