Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture

This gastrotourism guide (368 pages) was published in November of 2016 by Harper Wave/Anthony Bourdain. The book takes you to kitchens and markets in Spain. David read Grape, Olive, Pig and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

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Grape, Olive, Pig

Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture

Matt Goulding

Do you like to eat delicious things? Of course, you do! Spain is ground zero for delicious things to eat, and this book is an enthusiastic love letter to the cuisine that originated there.

Author Matt Goulding is a long-time ex-pat living in Barcelona. He is madly in love with Spain and wants you to know about it. So, maybe, you can fall in love with Spain, too.

The book’s narrative happily wanders through nine different districts in Spain, going deep into the food of each region. There are descriptions of particular dishes and lush tributes to entire meals. There’s also an engaging history of why each food is vital to that specific region and how it got there in the first place. This is a lively education in Spanish culinary vocabulary.

All of this objective stuff is framed by the author’s personal journeys. So sometimes you stroll through the winding alleys of Barcelona with him as he courts his wife. In the next section, you’re off to a pig festival in a tiny town in the province of Salamanca, or alongside Goulding as a judge at the world’s oldest paella competition. Through it all, he’s lively and entertaining company, unspooling a story that’s personal, sensual, exploring, romantic, and idealistic.

The reading experience, including the design of the book, is welcoming. Yes, there’s a Kindle version, but trust: That is not the one you want. You want the print version with lovely full-page photos of Spanish dishes with call-outs explaining precisely what you’re seeing. There’s holiday-inspiring travel photography: shots of people making sausage on the streets of La Alberca and another of a cheesemonger in a cheese cave.

The images and Goulding’s words will make you think, ‘Man, I wish I was in Barcelona right now.’ That is very delicious.

Somewhere along the way, the intense bursts of wonder fade as the holy-shit moments are replaced by the little pleasures of daily life in a deeply visceral world… But every once in a while, out of nowhere, the holy-shit moment still hits me. Usually, it’s late at night, when my wife is asleep and I’m alone on the terrace, eight stories up, looking out across Barcelona. I see the low-lit arches of the Plaça del Rei where the Romans made fish sauce, the stone points of the old Stock Exchange where Picasso first learned to paint, the packs of drunk Brits kicking crumpled beer cans like soccer balls under the streetlamps, the shadow of the castle on Montjuïc where Franco unleashed the firing squads on his opposition, the Plaça d’Espanya steps where my computer and passport were stolen, the hundreds of Catalan independence flags that carpet the sides of buildings, the beautiful apartment facade below me, the plumes of steam from my neighbor’s kitchen, the arch of the crumbled wall where we start our morning walks. The little signs of a life taking shape. That’s when it hits me hardest. — Matt Goulding

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