The Worst Thing I Ever Ate: Pig's Knees In Barcelona

I got the distinct impression that the waiter was trying to dissuade me when I unknowingly ordered the days special of pig's knees, grease and gristle...
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I got the distinct impression that the waiter was trying to dissuade me when I unknowingly ordered the days special of pig's knees, grease and gristle...

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There is some dispute as to the identity of the originator of the phrase, "You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk dancing."  Top candidate, on his own authority, is composer Arnold Bax. Nonetheless, hats have been thrown in to the ring on behalf of several other giants of classical music; Beecham and Sargent to name but two. Conductor Sir Thomas is number one pretender, which comes as no surprise considering he seems to have been responsible for most of the bons mots and witty aphorisms of the post-Wilde, pre-Fry era. I’m quite happy to leave it with Sir Arnold on the basis that he didn’t say anything else of note, so he deserves one. Sir Malcolm’s claim can be discounted on the basis that he seems to have specialised in nothing but snidey put-downs.

It strikes me that all three of them may have missed a trick. As successful as they were in their chosen genre I reckon music hall, rather than music per se,may have proved more lucrative. Beecham and Bax could well have become a bill topping act at the Hackney Empire, the former spewing out one-liners prestissimo whilst a bemused Arnold repeats his one and only line ad nauseam.  If Sir M was free then they could have opened the show as Beecham. Bax and Sargent, performing the sand dance. In this parallel universe I’d like to imagine that a young Stan Laurel and either one of Wilson, Keppel or Betty would be in the wings drawing inspiration.

Whoever it was that coined the oft (mis)quoted saying needs taking to task, especially where food is concerned. The phrase gives no succour to those who are adamant that they dislike a particular ingredient despite never having tried it. Quite right too. If early man had taken the same stance then we’d still be on a diet of nuts and berries and the only food shop on your local High Street would be a branch of Julian Graves. Where it errs, however, is in giving comfort to those who will try everything but immediately decide that if they don’t like something they will never eat it again.

For the next 20 minutes I gagged my way through a plate of skin, gristle and bones, all swimming in a pool of grease.

I could reel off a very long list of things that I detested when I first tried them. Topping it would be olives, blue cheese and aubergines, all of which I persisted with until my palate eventually decided that not only were they not as bad as I first thought but were, in fact, delicious. Taking that into account, I would modify the first part of the quote to read, “You should make a point of trying every experience until you positively relish it……” As for the qualifiers in the second part I would add just one...

We were off to visit Barcelona for the first time. On the two hour drive from France I couldn’t decide what I was looking forward to most – the Camp Nou tour or lunch in one of the world’s top food cities.  Barca’s HQ didn’t disappoint whereas lunch, for me at least, was a bit of a disaster. Bearing in mind that we didn’t speak Spanish, let alone Catalan, there was always going to be the potential for a little misunderstanding. Jill and the boys went the sensible route and pointed to the pictures on the menu; pasta for her and burgers for Owen and Pete. Not me though; stupid prat as I was, I demanded the dish of the day. It didn’t bode well that I understood neither the written description of the special on a chalk board nor the waiter’s valiant attempt at charades. I got the distinct impression that he was trying to dissuade me from making a big mistake.

I wish he’d have succeeded. For the next 20 minutes I gagged my way through a plate of skin, gristle and bones, all swimming in a pool of grease. The waiter popped back occasionally to see how I was getting on, seemingly reporting on my progress to the other customers and his colleagues. I suppose I can be grateful that they weren’t laughing out loud at the crazy Englishman, unlike my family who found the whole thing hilarious and even christened the blighted meal. As adventurous as I may be, I think that Bax’s maxim should be amended thus:-

“You should make a point of trying every experience until you positively relish it, excepting incest, folk dancing and pig’s knees.”

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