Organized by geographical area, the book takes on the signature dishes of Spain and the people who make those dishes possible, either through cooking or through the sourcing of the raw ingredients. Goulding tells the history of the area and why each dish has developed the way it has, detailing his own gustatory experience and history in each region of the country. He's accompanied both by the big names in Spanish cuisine and by unknowns who have contributed much to the growth of the food experience in the country. Slotted between the regional chapters are travel tips, diagrams of meat or fish cuts, restaurant recommendations, small blurbs about people, and more. There are no recipes in the book but there are many photographs. In fact the placement of the pictures make this less a traditional reading experience than something more akin to scrolling through a web site. The text itself is full of similes and Goulding writes of the food and meals with the reverence of a lover. His writing is very visual, which makes this a very slow and deliberate read. There is definitely a focus on the people and places that make the food in Spain what it is and there's much to learn about the food culture of this often culinarily overlooked country. The format of the book was a bit frustrating as the interstitial bits interrupted the flow of the narrative and were ultimately unnecessary and the writing could be dense or occasionally overwrought. Oddly enough, after finishing the book, I did not find myself wanting to go immediately to Spain to sample these foods. Although it was clear that Goulding finds Spanish food to be some of the best in the world, I remain less convinced and I'm uncertain as to why. Given other people's reactions to the book, perhaps the failing is all mine.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book to review.