Why I Am Not A “Philistine Yorkshireman”

My girlfriend has just uploaded a blog post she wrote about our recent trip to Barcelona.


In it, she accuses me of being “a philistine Yorkshireman”. Here’s why I don’t think I am.

I am justifiably proud of my Yorkshire heritage; it is after all the best county in England, but “philistine”?



Considering the fact that Melvyn Bragg quoted me this month, in a speech he gave about culture, I would argue that this is debatable. I do concede that I have an uneducated palette, but the thing is, I know what I like; it’s as simple as that.

More to the point, I know what I don’t like.

It’s not that I refuse to try out new food. I mean, I’ve eaten oysters! And as we all know (or rightly suspect) eating oysters is akin to swallowing a salty, chewy, slimy glob of lumpy snot; but in a nice way.

And so, in response to my darling girlfriend’s “art and food lover’s” review of our trip to Spain (and her false accusation that I am a “philistine”) here is a cultured Yorkshireman’s take on our foody time together in Barcelona.

The trip was a tick off of Denise’s bucket list. I’ve been to Spain a couple of times before, but that was way, way back in my early twenties; when my only priorities had been sea, sun, sand, sangria, San Miguel, and the rest.

Denise was in charge of where we would visit while we were in Barcelona; it was one of her landmark birthdays we were celebrating after all, and I wanted us to do what she wanted us to do. I knew this meant a lot of art, a lot of architecture, and more than likely a fair few tiny portions of fancy food would be on the agenda.

She did insist on me having an opinion once or twice, and refused outright to let me get away with “I’m happy with whatever you want, darling, it’s your birthday”, but I was able to keep my input to a minimum.

We relied almost entirely on Denise’s little notebook while we were in Barcelona; in which she’d usefully pencilled in places for us to visit, places where we could eat, and how we should get to them.

Getting to places in Barcelona involves navigating the wonderfully reliable and relatively simple Metro system there, plus a lot of walking. Barcelona is big!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good stroll as much as the next lazy sod, but I’m more of a moocher myself; whereas Denise is most definitely a marcher. We walked 30k in three days! And a lot of that was getting from one platform to another on the aforementioned Metro. If you want to explore Barcelona, then my advice would be to wear comfortable shoes; and train well beforehand.

We didn’t get to do everything Denise put on her To-Do-List, but I suspect this was more of a deliberate ploy on her part; in order to have an excuse to return at some point in the future.

I’m from Leeds; home to Leeds Kirkgate Market. Kirkgate was once a glorious landmark of the city; filled with colours, scents, sights, and sounds that captivated the senses. La Boqueria reminded me of how Leeds Kirkgate Market used to be.

There was plenty of food on display in La Boqueria that I didn’t recognise. Some of the food was labelled; but with words I didn’t recognise either…even the ones written in English. Like I said, I’ll admit to having an uneducated palette.

Denise mockingly chided me for choosing Empanadas to eat as a snack later.

“Typical Yorkshireman, choosing a pasty” she said, as I browsed the variety of fillings available, in the selection of small, delicious looking, exotically sounding…pasties. But these weren’t just Cornish Pasties, or Cheese & Onion pasties, or even your common or garden vegetable pasties. These were fancy pasties! There was even a wild mushroom and spinach empanada!

You got 3 small empanadas for one euro fifty; a pick ‘n’ mix, and a bargain! I picked three weird combinations. I enjoyed two of them; the third was spoiled, when Denise’s slice of melon leaked onto the crust of my Wild Mushroom and Spinach.

In her Blog post, Denise says this about La boqueria. “There is definitely something for everyone despite my partners [sic] singularity in his choices.”

I object!

Here’s how a typical conversation with my girlfriend sounds, regarding my diet.

HER: You’re impossible to cook healthy food for! You don’t like vegetables! You don’t like salad!

ME: I like some salad! I just don’t like tomatoes. I like onions, and cucumber, and carrot…

HER: You said you didn’t like carrot!

ME: I said I didn’t like boiled carrot, or steamed. But I like it roasted with marmalade, or raw.

HER: You don’t like pasta!

ME: I know I don’t, but I like potatoes. And I like seafood, and I LOVE mushrooms! And don’t tell me again that you don’t count potatoes as part of my five a day! And what about mushy peas?!!! They’re vegetables too! You can’t pick on me, just because I don’t like courgettes!

…and so on.

You see, Denise is a chef who loves to eat healthily, whereas I like big portions of food that tastes nice. And she can’t lecture me about how chips are bad for me, then gobble down bowl after bowl of the things herself; but say that it’s OK, “because these are patatas bravas, not chips”.

The French for potato is pomme-de-terre; which translates literally as “apple from the earth”. It’s a poetic name for a potato, but if you slice up an “apple from the earth”, and then fry it, you’re left with chips. And that unpronounceable dip you’ve been dipping your chips in; the one made of mayonnaise and garlic, that wouldn’t be garlic mayo by any chance, would it?

Besides, how I can I be accused of making singular choices, when one night I didn’t order chocolate for my pudding; opting instead for an almond tart with ice cream. The fact that they drizzled chocolate sauce on it, not mentioned on the menu, is irrelevant.

Denise on the other hand ordered crème brulee…again, and again, and again. But this wasn’t just any old crème brulee of course; this was “Catalan Crème Brulee”. And Catalan Crème Brulee is obviously so amazingly awesome, that experimentation with desserts goes out of the window…actually, that’s a touch unfair.

Denise suffers from a number of food intolerances and allergies, so her options are often limited. But I think the fact that I chose Ice Cream and tart, over chocolate one night, proves that I’m not as predictable as Denise makes me out, in her blog.

And this is why I refute the charge that I am a “philistine Yorkshireman” with singular tastes. Now, about this Gaudi bloke!…

An art and food lovers guide to Barcelona

Moel Faban Suppers

Barcelona has been up at the top of my wish list of places to visit as long as I can remember. As an art lover with a particular attraction to Art Nouveau, Modernism, Picasso, Dali and Gaudi and a leaning towards all things Mediterranean (food and weather wise) it’s a wonder I’ve never made it there before now. Somehow the trip had eluded me as other destinations took priority, often those involving visits to stay with family, or friends, or for work. Taking a trip just for ME was pretty much unheard of.

This trip was an extra special one; straight from the top of my bucket list to celebrate a very big birthday. It was totally indulgent and all about what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to do was explore the art and architecture of the Modernisme movement (or Catalonian modernism) and Catalonian cuisine.

I planned and…

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