Down (but not dirty) in Bilbo:

Tired maybe, sweaty sure, foot-sore, some under-utilised muscles complaining about unexpected use, pale Northern European skin sun reddened, yes, all those. But not dirty.

Unlike the surface of this wonderfully expressive old face*; that of a man whose whole life was spent outdoors, sun and wind leathered skin, ingrained dirt — like the miners over here — hard to scrub away. And the hipsters of Hoxton would kill for that hat and pipe….

*[NOTE: the face of the guy in the photo; not my reflected face. Obvs.]

Brother perhaps to this pig herder, photographed back in the 1930s, you think?

Returning home after a hard day in the hills and fields to the (extended) family meal

Although poor as they were, they’d be unlikely to to able to afford to slaughter (or buy) one of these lovelies

Or shop at La Casa de la Carne

There’s generally not as much fat on the pigs today — even in Spain — as the bulk (see what I did there?) of the supply is still of the Cassius (“lean and healthy”) type, very unlike this pair of lovelies from the last century

I think it was this latter one who was the cause of this Basque farmer’s discomfiture at his gaming table

Much better to have a quiet picnic on the hills above Bilbo as did these three 18th C. ladies, the picture drawn to show the riverbank & a plan of the old city in the period before its seemingly relentless rise as an industrial powerhouse had really got started.

But the importance attached to food and eating has never left this area; they build murals in homage to eating and drinking well…

…whilst shops like Charcutería Alemana La Moderna, who I mentioned in the earlier piece continue to supply great meat (inc. to The Basquery) continue to supply great charcuterie and meats to Bilboans today…

…along with other stalls at the magnificent La Ribera market, shaped like an ocean-going ship, land locked, stranded on the edge of the old town, right on the banks of the river Nervión.

Were we lucky enough to be living and working in Bilbo, there’d be no desire to shop for food anywhere else. Full of butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and an amazing array of pintxos bars; the latter somewhere to eat and drink at when the sheer volume of natural bounty available to buy threatens to overwhelm you or your shopping bags, groaning with purchases, starting to disintegrate, seeming to weigh more than the core of a red dwarf star…

Backstage controlled chaos at one of these bars…

Then there’s some items at the butchers that you would be a little hard pressed to find in England…

Some others that would delight the hearts of Messrs. Henderson and Turner

Smoked and cured delights almost too many to count…

Perfect porcine produce. Trotters, ears. The whole nine yards.

Bu this place isn’t just meat. Here’s a huge range of dried peppers and pulses to drool over.

Acres of shellfish. Beautifully, almost lovingly presented. Fresh, smelling of the sea (of course) and the faint tang of their juices…

Fearsome fish faces fighting for favour. The flavour is a given of course.

Each stall taking prideful care, individually show-casing how much they love the produce they’re selling…

Think you’ll run out of Bacalao anytime soon? Not here you won’t…

Bilbo is a busy city, dirty and run-down still in places reflecting the changes that came in the 1980s as heavy industry was hollowed out by global free trade and the insanity of the neo-liberal policies but bright and buzzy and fun and noisy as well.

And passionate. Fiercely protective of their language, their culture, their food and drink. But still quite calm in many places; we were surprised at the comparative lack of cars. The subway, the trams and the buses are uniformly excellent (OK, the buses could do with some logistical improvements; even native Spanish seemed uniformly bewildered at the intricacies of the timetables and where to actually catch the damn bus they were hoping for but..) and we used them all the time.

There’s more to follow on Bildo and Donostia in some (sometimes) less food related posts. Be back soon with those; all these food photos have given me a killer appetite which needs urgently to be assuaged.

And finally? Finally. Did you know that China eats fully HALF of the total number of pigs produced worldwide annually. And those pigs in turn consume ½ of the worlds’ animal feed. Yes, that’s right. Read that statistic slowly again. Then start worrying about how we can move to better sustainability and animal welfare and a reduction in global warming with that as a downward driver. Animal agriculture causes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions; and it’s recommended that we choose local meat to minimise carbon footprints — but that’s hard to square when the amount used by China is so vast…

About Salute The Pig

Charcuterie, smoking, curing, brining and all things porcine. Brought to you from deepest, darkest Cambs, England by Chris Bulow. In the smoker or in the kitchen....Salutate porcum!
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed