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What to Read: Grape Olive Pig by Matt Goulding

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March 01, 2017
What to Read
Vikram Singh

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What's On the Bookshelf
Over the years, we’ve had numerous conversations with industry leaders and often one of the topics that we discuss is the latest book read. We thought it would be fun to share some of these booklover conversations with our readers. Here are what our industry leaders are reading.

Grape Olive Pig
by Matt Goulding
[Review by Vikram Singh, Rainmaker]

Spain’s amazing history, lifestyle and culinary culture come alive as you joyfully work your way through Matt Goulding’s “Grape Olive Pig.” Since my two biggest passions are food and travel, this book could have been written expressly for me. Although this book does provide a wealth of information, it reads more like a book of stories.

In “Grape Olive Pig,” Goulding skillfully weaves together the elements of history, local ingredients, favorite dishes, interesting people and well-loved places. He writes not only with easy familiarity, but also with great enthusiasm. The end result is a compilation of essays that comprise a love story to his adopted home country of Spain.

In chapters about the regions and food culture of Spain, Goulding takes you on a journey with him throughout the country. He tells his stories using food, maps, history and anecdotes about actual people from specific regions. For example, you meet emerging chefs in Madrid in one chapter; in another you learn how they process pigs in Salamanca, the home of Spain’s most well-known culinary export, jamón ibérico (Iberian ham).

One of my favorite chapters describes the roots of Spanish rice and paella in Valencia. I also loved traveling to the shores of Cadiz in the south, where he gives a brief history lesson on how tuna evolved into a billion dollar industry. You’ll visit the fabled Basque country in Northern Spain where Goulding pays homage to one of the most famous chefs in the world, who also runs a culinary school the author attended in his youth. There is always a personal connection, which keeps the book from becoming a generic itinerary planner.

In the story from Galicia, on the northwest coast of Spain, I learned about the stubborn divers risking their lives every day on the roaring Atlantic coast to dive for percebes (barnacles). In Granada (southern Spain) the writer outlines the lives of shepherds who are living in a land that still feels like the Old World. In his chapter on Barcelona, you get a personal glimpse into the not-so-subtle Catalan culture and history. It’s easy to see why some of the greatest chefs in the word operate their restaurants there.
The book does read a bit like a travel guide at times, but does it well. Goulding offers excellent tips on how to “eat and drink like a Spaniard,” which can help you avoid the tourist traps laid down for you alongside all the famous landmarks in cities across Spain. Having last visited Spain almost a decade ago, this book inspired me to book my next trip and experience it again. This is travel writing done right.

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