Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eating the Whole Hog

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I've always had a fascination with places that in some way mirrored the climate, geography and green-inspired "grey" state-of-mind. There is something special about a place where you can come out of the mists surrounding a hill-top and be slapped in the face by an indescribably beautiful, green valley. Small farms dot the landscape, both inviting and somehow forbidding.
As you go over the next ridge, you re-enter the clouds and wonder what you'll see as you descend again. This time you round a bend, the clouds dissipate, and through the breaks in the dense forest around you, a feeling of something large and powerful overtakes you. A couple more turns, as you come off the mountain, and you realizes that you've been driving next to the ocean, you don't know how long. You felt it before you saw it. Once again, you run across small groups of houses, or even an isolated farmstead. Every time, the thought enters your head: Who are these people? Why do they live out here? Surrounded by such amazing beauty, but intense isolation: What is their life like?

Many travel writers focus on observing and recording; afraid of ruining the scene by their mere presence. Taking this voyeurism to the next level, is something that engaging writers like John Barlow do for us. In one of the best food/travelogues that I've read: "Everything but the Squeal...Eating the Whole Hog", Mr. Barlow eats his way through north-western Spain. Galicia is a place that has always been fascinating to me. Reminding me of my roots and enticing me with it's food, this corner of Spain calls to me. The rural nature of this area, however, means that there isn't as much information on this area as there is on other parts of Spain. In his quest to eat his way through every part of the pig, Mr. Barlow goes to the most remote areas of this beautiful region; and he's not afraid to knock. Reclusive hippies, grumpy old-men, fashionable viudas in tapas bars: they all eventually come around and add another piece to the pork puzzle that Mr. Barlow constructs (or consumes) in the course of a year.

I read this book without the benefit John Barlow's Flickr photoset; I'm happy to say that the images in my head were not far off the mark.

No comments: