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Book review: Everything but the Squeal by John Barlow

Book review: Everything but the Squeal by John Barlow
Everything but the Squeal – A Year of Pigging out in Northern Spain
by John Barlow
Summersdale Publishing

John Barlow set himself a task: to eat every part of the pig over the course of a year.  

A whole year to eat every part of the pig? Plenty of time, you might think. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter whether the author succeeds or not, because this is as much a book about eating pork parts, as a homage to  Galicia, Mr Barlow’s adopted home of nearly 20 years.
Barlow seeks out all the quirky pork-related festivals you can image, from the sublime to the ridiculous, merrily eating his way across the province and meeting a few eminent Galicians in the process including Fidel Castro’s favourite cousin, Doña Victoria of Láncara and Antón of Espasante Galicia’s best known pig.

Whether Barlow accidentally ends up “French-kissing” a particularly gorgeous pork and mushroom sandwich or suspects the tiny Coruña restaurant’s ham hock of “giving neck massages” to engender such grins of contentment on customers’ faces, many times I was in definite laugh-out-loud territory with this book. Barlow expertly conveys the quirks and conundrums of Galicia respectfully, with great sense of humour. Knowing he’s the outsider, he doesn’t fall into too much naval-gazing, but just gets on with it with perfectly resigned Britishness – he’s never going to be Galician, but he’s at ease in his adopted country.

We get to follow his quest for a whole year of delightful and sometimes gory gluttony, eating everything from pig’s face and brains to the more common bacon and ribs. The main hazard is that you’ll be permanently hungry while tucking into the pages – unless of course you’re a vegetarian, in which case it’s perhaps best to skip the book altogether.
In these times of swine flu this should be essential reading as vindication for maligned hogs everywhere. Personally I will also be holding out for Mr Barlow’s next potential challenge – every part of the cow.
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