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Matt Goulding on how Grape, Olive, Pig was born

12 Feb 2017 | Olivia Fleetwood

If there's one man that is passionate about food, it's Matt Goulding. Written with the same evocative voice of the award-winning magazine Roads & Kingdoms, Matt's latest book, Grape, Olive, Pig takes you through the key regions of Spain as you’ve never before seen them. Matt offers an intimate portrait of his adoptive home – from the barnacle hunters of Galicia to the shepherds of Andalusia, Spain’s remarkable people and its incomparable cuisine are gloriously introduced for all to experience. Below is an edited extract from the book – a letter from Matt to Anthony Bourdain. 


Dear Tony,

I went out last night for a quick drink down the road—cold, dark vermouth from a dim bodega in the shadow of an ancient church. A friend showed up with the promise of the best croquetas in town (he was right: the crunch of a chicharrón, the molten savory flow of jamón lava).

The night marched on – from oil-slick anchovies to pimenton-dusted octopus, small tubes of cerveza to big bellies of Beefeater – as my plans to return to work vanished in a slipstream of crushed grapes and pork fat. I woke up to a half-eaten shawarma on the bed stand and a note scribbled on a napkin: “Great Ball of Pig? Grape. Olive. Pig.”

The most common reaction to Rice, Noodle, Fish, our love letter to Japanese cuisine, has been three words long: “I am going.” That’s what we set out to do—inspire and contextualize travel while leaving readers room to make their own discoveries. But now that we have a look, a style, a voice, it would be a damn shame not to take it to another delicious corner of the world. And I think I have just the place.

“We changed the history of the world,” a chorizo-cheeked chef once told me in Madrid. Maybe it was the gin talking, but he had a point. The Spaniards brought tomatoes and chocolate and chilies to the Old World, sugar and wheat and smallpox to the New World. They forged one of the world’s first fusion cuisines – not fusion as a six-letter word, but a cuisine of confluence, where the slow tide of Phoenicians and Romans, Jews and Moors and Catholics washing over the Iberian Peninsula gently but resolutely shaped its character. Like the sting of a Padrón pepper, it creeps up on you gently: in the hint of cinnamon in grandma’s meatballs or the stain of saffron in

a proper paella. More a whisper than a full-throated pronouncement. Not that the Spaniards don’t know how to shout. After all, this is the country that invented foams and spheres and the forty-course tasting menu. But Spain’s greatest virtue lies in that time-tested Mediterranean formula: beautiful local ingredients, impeccable technique, and a ravenous appetite for all manners of flora and fauna. The Spaniards suck the brains from shrimp heads, crunch sardine spines like potato chips, throw elaborate wine-soaked parties to celebrate spring onions. There are stories to tell here.

From what I’ve heard in our conversations, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Food that will make your toes curl. People you want to name your children after. The fact that we first met over roasted snails and cava in the Catalan countryside brings

this thing full circle. We’d go with the same squad from Roads & Kingdoms: Doug Hughmanick painting with pixels, Nathan Thornburgh flexing from the edit desk. And assuming those nice folks down on Broadway dig on canned seafood and blood sausage, Harper Wave putting the ink to paper. What do you think?


This is an edited extract from Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding, find out more about the book here