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Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain

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John Barlow, self-confessed glutton, found himself in a tricky situation: living in one of the most meat-loving places on earth, married to a vegetarian.  The Barlows live in Galicia, the misty-green northwest corner of Spain, and home to a population that reveres and consumes every part of the pig. This gets Barlow thinking about the nature of our relationship with food—what’s delicious, what’s nasty, and what sort of obligation we have to the animals we eat. Over the course of one glorious, bilious year, Barlow vows to eat everything but the squeal.  In his travels, Barlow takes part in the thousand-year-old antthrowing festival of Laza. He makes pig-bladder puddings for carnival. He washes down lots of pork with lots of wine. In the tradition of Calvin Trillin and Anthony Bourdain, Everything but the Squeal is an adventure in extreme eating, a hilariously quirky travel book, and a perceptive look at how what we eat makes us who we are.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 28, 2008

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About the author

John Barlow

30 books44 followers
John Barlow's prize-winning fiction and non-fiction has been published by HarperCollins/William Morrow, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 4th Estate and various others in the UK, US, Australia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland.

His current project is the Joe Romano crime thriller series. The first novel, RIGHT TO KILL, is out in the UK with HQ/HarperCollins on June 24th, 2021.


John was born in West Yorkshire, England, in 1967. He worked as a musician before studying English Literature at Cambridge University and language acquisition at Hull University. After teaching English for several years, he moved to Spain to write full-time, and has been there ever since. He is married to Susana, with whom he has two sons. They currently live in the Galician city of A Coruña.

Apart from writing fiction, he also works as a ghost writer and journalist. He has written for the Washington Post, Slate.com, Penthouse, Departures Magazine and The Big Issue, and he is currently a feature writer for the award-winning food magazine Spain Gourmetour.


John's first published work, a novella, won the Paris Review's Discovery (Plimpton) Prize in 2002. He went on to publish a collection of novellas, EATING MAMMALS, the novel INTOXICATED, set in the late nineteenth century, and EVERYTHING BUT THE SQUEAL, a food-travelogue about Spain. He then published the off-beat noir novel WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JERRY PICCO?, and three novels in the LS9 series, featuring amateur sleuth John Ray.

John has also worked with the conceptual artists goldin+enneby on their ACÉPHALE project, which has so far taken him to Nassau, Bergamo, Oslo and London, and into the company of Bahamian off-shore bankers, defamation layers, prize-winning artists, and Martina Navratilova. His writing for the project has been published variously in English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Portuguese, and has featured at numerous art shows/galleries in the UK, the US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Italy. The novel HEADLESS, based on the project, was release in 2013.

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5 stars
54 (25%)
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68 (32%)
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70 (33%)
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11 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
Profile Image for Xan.
Author 3 books82 followers
May 28, 2017
¿Qué puedo decir? Leer un libro de viajes gastronómicos por tu tierra natal debería producir un poco de desazón, al ver tus costumbres reducidas a tópicos y cuestionadas por un viajero apresurado y lleno de prejuicios. Después de leer este libro ya puedo decir que es una excepción: el señor Barlow es un gallego que decidió nacer un poco más al norte, cruzando el mar.

Mi vida transcurre en las coordenadas en las que realiza su viaje, en la Galicia rural que desaparece lentamente. Soy a todos los efectos un comedor de patatas y devorador de cerdos. Un nativo auténtico.
Como tal doy fé a los que no conozcan mi país que lo que cuenta el autor es cierto al 99%, que los juicios de valor que emite sobre nuestras costumbres son los mismos que hacemos casi todos nosotros en privado y que, cuando algún comentario me ha parecido un poco fuera de lugar, al leerlo de nuevo he descubierto con placer que se ha contagiado de nuestra ironía.

¿Recomendable? Por supuesto, me he dado un atracón en un día y no he necesitado bicarbonato para hacer esta agradable digestión.

Y a los que vengan a Galicia en invierno les deseo buen provecho y disfruten del cocido.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,694 reviews280 followers
December 8, 2020
funny book about the authors trips around Galicia to eat a whole pig , informative
Profile Image for Chris.
1,388 reviews32 followers
October 10, 2011
An enjoyable and humorous read through what you should call the un-Spain, Galicia. Barlow, an Englishman, is married to the lovely Susana, a Gallega, and they live in Coruna with their son, Nico. I bought this book based on Nancy Pearl's recommendation. I'm glad I did. In Barlow's quest to eat everything from a hog we are subjected to a vivacious zest for all things Galician. My wife's family comes from Galicia and I'm ready to visit there and even possibly retire there. One of the only things that really bothered me about this book was the total absence of pictures and a map. During the course of the narrative he was always taking pictures of people and food but nary a one appears in the book. And maybe that's a good thing because the beauty of Galicia would just motivate more people to move there and destroy it; but somehow I don't think the Gallegos would let that happen.
Profile Image for Xabier Cid.
Author 3 books22 followers
April 4, 2010
This book may be the most accurate and comprehensive analysis of contemporary Galicia, even this is not the author's main will. From politics to economics, that failed country in NW Spain is presented here with huge amounts of irony and, at the end, good willingness. It is also a book about Galician gastronomy (this is actually the main topic), focused in all the different shapes of this pork-biased culinary culture.

Maybe some readers would think that there is also a completely forgotten fish culture in Galicia, or that the author have missed a pork-based dish here and there. And that's true. But despite these totally understandable errors and a couple of wrong statements (Lavacolla's origin, for instance) this book is an extremely valuable and enjoyable reading.
Profile Image for Veronica.
758 reviews109 followers
June 16, 2013
This was OK, but it had a real chance to be better. Hidden behind the gimmick of eating every bit of the pig is a book about Galicia's history, culture, and people. Parts of it were really interesting, and I found the constant lengthy descriptions of gluttonous ingestion of bits of pig a distraction (in fact the first chapter, in which he claims to have eaten cocido long past the state of satiety made me feel sick). It would be quite hard for a vegetarian to read this book, so he's restricting his market too. Warning: it ends with a no-holds-barred description of a traditional matanza (pig-killing).

I suppose he felt he needed a USP to attract a publisher but It would have been much better if he'd just left that aspect out -- while still, of course, addressing the Galician obsession with pigs (not that other parts of Spain don't have pig obsessions too). Then he could also have written about seafood and fish, an equally important part of Galician culture (he only mentions eating octopus once in the entire book). And the chapter about Manuel Frega might have made more sense in a more general book -- it is completely out of place here, and not that interesting anyway, since he doesn't know how to interview him.

He's not a great writer, and given that he's from Yorkshire I found the Americanization of the text (presumably imposed by a US publisher) a bit irritating. Still, there were things to enjoy here. Worth a read if you are thinking of visiting Galicia. Favourite quote:
Spain doesn't demarcate the different spheres of social living much, which makes the country a bit like a giant kindergarten with a bar in it and a permanent tapas menu fixed to the wall.
Profile Image for Ann.
108 reviews51 followers
January 18, 2009
A charming, witty little book, but slightly less sparkling than it has the potential to be. I found it a bit too specialized: I’m very glad to know more about the Spanish province of Galicia, but apart from the occasional memorable chapter, all the rain-soaked, pre-industrial hamlets started to run together after a bit, signs that the net might have been cast a little wider. My main problem, though, was that so much of the charm – actually, the very existence – of this book is predicated on the author being much more passionate about pig than you are. Now, know that this is coming from a place of jealousy – how much would I like to travel and eat hog for a year on a book advance from FSG? LOTZ. – but as someone who could probably be federally prosecuted for the amount of country ham she has smuggled out of rural Georgia, whose favorite childhood food was the post-hog killing blood cake, and who once had an day-long hallucination involving a ham sandwich during an extraordinary bout of hunger…well, I can’t profess to love pig more than the author, but you would have to be extra-witty and extra-informative for me to appreciate (rather than so obviously resent) you. Good try, but not quite.
Profile Image for Matthew.
123 reviews7 followers
February 19, 2009
Dear Mr. Barlow,

I have just finished reading your book, Everything But the Squeal, and I am writing to tell you how much I enjoyed it: I enjoyed it a lot. I feel like I am especially qualified to enjoy this book. In college, I studied for 6 months at the Universidad de Santiago. I got there in January and it didn't stop raining really till about a week before I left in late May. It was a joy to read about Galicia, a region that doesn't get a lot of press. While I was there I learned quite a bit about Galician identity and I think your book really nails it. (As an aside, I ended up writing my honors thesis on the influence of Galician folklore on the short stories of Emilia Pardo Bazan). I am also a big fan of pork, slow food, and eating in general. I cook a lot and am currently on a Portuguese kick, so your book really added fuel to that fire. I don't know if it is possible for an American to suffer from Morinho, but if it is, your book gave me a large dose of it. Bravo.

Matthew Skeen.

Profile Image for Katy.
79 reviews
April 4, 2021
I enjoyed reading about a part of the world I’ve never much considered, I.e. Galicia in NE Spain. I feel like this guy miss uses his riding talents to dwell on some very basic nationalism and stupid manly obsession with meat eating. Like why, dude, do you want your son to eat meat so badly? Investigate that! Literarily (if that’s a word) I would’ve loved to see more of the authors wife in the book. She was in there a lot, so why not just go the whole 9 yards and make her a real character? Also howwww did this make it to publication without a diagram of a pig in it???
Profile Image for Christine.
326 reviews
April 3, 2009
First I must apologize to Robyn - the author pretty much describes the serious business of raising and eating pigs in all sorts of ways - at home, restaurants, festivals, etc. Its quite the book for carnivores or anyone who appreciates bacon or pancetta. And its another entry into the "What I did last year" genre. The author is a Brit living with his Spanish wife in the Galicia-region of Spain. Apparently the Galician's are crazy for pigs and let very little go to waste (everything but the squeal!). I liked the book more for learning about a region of Spain with a long history attached to its food. His writing style is also a bit like Bill Bryson's so there are some very funny moments (his wife is also vegetarian which is pretty much unheard of in this part of Spain). But at times if felt like I too was being dragged along on every excursion to far flung mountain "towns" (more pigs than people) to eat some odd pig pieces parts.
Profile Image for Michelle.
584 reviews23 followers
July 26, 2011
This gastro-travelogue screams: "pork enthusiasts only!" And, okay, perhaps it would be difficult for those who lack my love of bacon to understand why traveling around Galicia eating local pig delicacies would be of interest. Barlow is a British transplant with a Galician vegetarian wife who gets to know his adopted homeland better by trying to eat every part of the pig possible - which, yes, includes innards! I am not going to run out and eat roasted heart now, but I admire his dedication.

The book is best when he talks about the various dishes, festivals, and lucky food experiences he had along the way. His jokes and asides I could do without, and somewhere along the line it morphs more into a general love letter to Galicia, but much of the background is worth reading. I am left hungry and eager for another trip to Spain!
435 reviews5 followers
February 17, 2009
This book is a hard one to review. Its basic premise is in the quest to eat all parts of the pig the author journeys through Galicia, Spain's northwestern province and a very distinct region of the country over the course of the year. Parts of are fascinating, describing a people, area, and customs about which I did not know anything. Moreover, Barlow loves what he is writing about, which always helps in the travelogue genre. That said, the writing can be a little amateurish at times, which is further odd because of his academic background, and parts are trite. But in the end, for me at least, his joy in this adventure pushed a three star written book up and makes it worth your hours.
Profile Image for Turi Becker.
408 reviews24 followers
January 8, 2009
I really enjoyed John Barlow's stories of eating his way around Galicia, his adopted home in northern Spain. Great local color and description of the people and area, and he doesn't get bogged down in the food too much. He does cover the whole gamut of pig-based preparations, from festival food to high-end restaurants to his own cooking. Made me want to visit, which is what a travel/food book should do...
Profile Image for Melody.
2,623 reviews254 followers
July 28, 2009
I struggled with this one. The authorial voice is a bit too arch, the tone too memoir-like for what is ostensibly a book about eating pigs. He almost lost me when he mentioned the brand of his notebook, and there were several other digressions that had nothing at all to do with pork. It wasn't at all what I was expecting, the quality of the writing didn't knock me out, and I was not engaged by any of it.
Profile Image for Susan Smith.
99 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2014
I started this book over a year ago and just couldn't get into it. I picked it up recently, and for some reason, it was like a totally different book to me. Part travelogue, part history book, part restaurant guide, part cookbook, and all interesting. I don't know why I didn't like the book when I started it last year, but this time around, I found myself picking it up every time I had a few minutes to spare.
45 reviews
August 25, 2014
This cheeky novel written by a Brit over attempts to gross you out in his attempt to eat every part of the pig possible. I chose this to learn more about Galicia and indeed I did. His historical ramblings were the most interesting parts of the book. The over the top description of some of the pig parts I glazed over to get to the good stuff. More history, less gross out would have been wonderful...But - if you want to learn about Galicia in a light hearted read - I recommend!
Profile Image for Gill.
703 reviews22 followers
May 10, 2010
I'm visiting the less well-known province of Galicia in north-west Spain soon, and an Amazon search for Galicia found this title. As the title suggests it's mainly about the food of the region, but it gives a flavour (no pun intended) of the place. Entertainingly written but vegetarians or squeamish meat-eaters should steer clear!
Profile Image for Shana.
1,166 reviews24 followers
September 26, 2012
Part food/travel memoir and part Barlow’s musings on Galicia, this book is an easy, humorous read. Barlow not only includes the reader in his hog-eatin’ journey, but also provides a look into Galician history, culture, and politics. While the book felt disjointed at times and I do not eat pork myself, I found this to be entertaining and a nice rainy weekend book!
Profile Image for Liza.
31 reviews7 followers
December 28, 2009
Great writing on many of the individual pieces, and really evocative of a place. I wish there was a bit more of a tying-together at the end (he seems to just run out of steam), but other than that, I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Jess.
11 reviews
January 11, 2010
This was a great idea, and the beginning was fantastic, like a travel/food memoir, but in the middle it started getting into too much exposition of history and the first person voice was lost. It's a shame, I didn't finish the book, was about 1/3 the way through.
Profile Image for Rob.
26 reviews
February 16, 2013
Nicely done, although a little scattered at times. I read the nook version (I don't know about the hard copy) which had no picture section even though the author repeatedly talks about all the pictures he's taking. Where are they?
Profile Image for Rita.
19 reviews
March 12, 2014
The book is a skillful mix of reporting on the food of Galicia, reportage on village life, and the expat experience with plenty of humor mixed in. My favorite chapter was Dirty Day in Laza, which described the primitive, powerful, and humorous village rites for Entroida (Carnival).
Profile Image for Jenny Gendel.
157 reviews5 followers
February 13, 2011
Read this a couple of years ago now but LOVED it. I wish I had good ideas like this and the ability to write about it so well.
Profile Image for Dale.
120 reviews
May 31, 2011
I really liked this book. Many laugh out loud sections. His style of writing reminds me of J Maartin Troost.
You'll enjoy this is you like travel writing and exploring the roots of our food.
Profile Image for Maureen.
1,023 reviews4 followers
June 25, 2011
I enjoyed this a lot. Dated but a good balance of the 'old' India story and the 'new' 1970s one.
Profile Image for Tori.
383 reviews
May 6, 2013
an interesting culinary romp through Galicia, Spain; and I learned that there are quite a few famous Galicians, many of whom I found surprising
Profile Image for Rob Dorman.
9 reviews
March 31, 2017
The book's theme... I get it. There was just so much pork... more than I even thought possible. Took me much longer to get through than it should've. Needed time to digest, I suppose. I really enjoyed reading about Galicia, its people, and communities, though.
Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews

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