Barlow, John. Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Reason read: March is food month.
The challenge for John Barlow in Everything But the Squeal is to consume every single part of the pig from tail to snout and everything in between; a veritable “porco-graphic tour” as John states. He faces every consumption with humor and more than a little snarky defensiveness, “when they’re starving , pigs will occasionally eat eat other, but so do we when our airplanes crash in inhospitable places” (p 21). This is also a travelogue as John has promised to eat the pig geographically as well, “in situ” as he put it.
More than a travelogue about eating pork, Everything But the Squeal is a memoir about marriage and family. What more tolerant vegetarian wife would tote their newborn son around northern Spain while her husband goes on a quest to devour an entire pig? But wait, there is more. Everything but the Squeal is historical, describing the past cultures of the Galacian people. It’s an abbreviate biography of Manuel Fraga (Minister of Tourism in 1962 and founder of the Popular Party in the 1980s). It’s even a love letter to his son. The direct comments he makes to Nico are endearing.
Here is how a documentary can ruin your eating habits. After watching “My Octopus Teacher” I no longer can stomach seeing any cephalopod on a menu. Here’s how words can ruin your eating habits. I won’t eat Slim Jims because I do not understand what “mechanically separate chicken parts” means. Thanks to Everything But the Squeal I now have to be on the lookout for MRM – mechanically recovered meat… um…whatever that means…and I won’t even describe the pig slaughter scene.
A byproduct of reading Everything But the Squeal was a slow picking up of tidbits of the language. I learned that morrina means a profound longing for the native land; something that is more powerful than a teenager at boarding school suffering from homesickness.
As another aside, I think I want to try my hand at making Galacian Red Sauce. I am sure there is more to it than evoo, paprika, garlic, onion, bay leaves and lemon, but you had me a paprika and sold me on lemon. As another aside, I don’t think I have ever been confronted with the description of offal as often as I have this month.
Quotes to quote, “The delights of home are never stronger than when you’re not there” (p 93). Obvo.
Author fact: Barlow has written other books. Everything but the Squeal is the only one on my Challenge lust.
Book trivia: Barlow talks about taking pictures but doesn’t include them in the book.
Playlist: “Y.M.C.A.,” “Brazil,” Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Julio Iglesias, and Jerry Garcia.
Nancy said: Pearl called Everything but the Squeal “mouthwatering” (Book Lust To Go p 219).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain” (p 218). Can’t get any simpler than that.