HOWARD Carter spent years searching for the lost tomb of Tutankhamun.
Columbus went looking for India but found America.
Sir Henry Morton Stanley sought the source of the Nile; Amundsen and Scott raced to the South Pole; and a Japanese man called Shigeru Kondo spent months calculating the value of Pi to ten trillion places.
Bravo one and all. Today, their spirit is with us as we too report on a virtuous and thrilling quest: the search for York's best bar snack.
Over several gruelling months, friends, colleagues, my wife and I have overcome it all – rain, wind and excessive amounts of salt. Our gallant guts have taken a pounding, all for you. If you're fed up of paltry peanuts and crumby crisps, then ahoy – herein lies fresh hope!
We began our search at high noon on a Saturday at The Hop in Fossgate.
We're an upbeat crew: My friends Ian and Gill, me and bags of determination.
The Hop: Pie and a pint
First up is the pork pie, an enduring classic. The Hop's are made by Andrew Jones of Huddersfield and come in their pure untainted form, or with either black pudding or apple & stuffing. We opt for one of each and they are commendable efforts, alongside halves of pale ale. But better lies ahead, we can tell.
A timeless classic: The pickled egg
A few days later, on a rainy Monday night, I reach The Phoenix in George Street, a timeless, traditional pub, selling timeless, traditional snacks. My comrades are posted missing, so I venture in alone. A winning combo lies in wait: Robustus Lunam by Half Moon Brewery, and a plain and simple pickled egg.
The beer is a blindingly good stout, the egg a perfect aside, and the surroundings in this marvellous haven as magical as ever.
Pickled eggs become a regular feature in our expedition, excellent in The Maltings; even better with a traditional bitter in The Golden Slipper, but at their best here. But surely old York's new creativity has something to rival the simple pickled egg? It's onwards once more.
One night later, we are a couple of hundred yards along the Walls. Word of mouth has told me of a magnificent piece of work at The Rook and Gaskill: a cheese board fit to feed three, let alone one. The rumours are true; the slabs of Wensleydale, Red Leicester and Cheddar could double as door-stops.
But here our first argument ensues. Mutiny threatens. When is a bar snack not a bar snack?
With the indefatigable certainty found only in pub whimsy, we come up with three golden rules:
1) A bar-snack is only a bar-snack if it can be eaten without cutlery, and standing up if need be.
2) A bar-snack must be instantly available. Heating after ordering is a no-no. Heating is cheating, always remember.
3) A bar-snack must be small enough to fit in one hand.
So The Rook's cheese, though magnificent, faced ignominious disqualification on account of its size and the presence of a knife. We wrote off that £4.99 and ventured forth once more.
Lest you think this voyage was one of unadulterated excess, think again. There were moments of dejection along the way.
We charted fruitless waters and cursed wasted detours. Rarely was our despair greater than when we chased a tip-off, only to see our hopes dashed, arriving too late or under false pretences. But we didn't need a banquet on every bar, and there were many merry morsels between the disappointments.
At The Golden Ball in Bishophill, we chanced on our boldest pickled eggs yet, soused in chilli vinegar for extra kick. There were unexpected gems across Cromwell Road at Middletons Hotel: Scotch eggs, wasabi peanuts, pickled onions, mixed olives, and others that fell foul of the inviolable Rule 2.
Hope ebbed and flowed but then, in the early weeks of this year, momentum and luck swung in our favour.
At The Duke of York in King's Square the pork scratchings were home made, giving an otherwise routine mainstay a chance of glory. Chilli nuts were tempting too. But the sweeter options caught our eyes.
For a solitary pound, we were given a cup full of home-made 'honeycomb', puff candy, cinder toffee, call it what you will. The addition of Leeds Brewery's Gathering Storm, a rich, roasted stout, made for bittersweet brilliance. My wife was smitten and even I was unsure I'd find better. For a while...
It's galling, but while I had been trudging around York, some of its greatest snacks were right under my nose.
A small A-board outside Walmgate Ale House boasts of "Handmade bar snacks". Inside, a blackboard lists 16 treasures: potted fish or beef; pies; pigs in blankets; spiced lentils; the list went on. I opted for cheese straws and a half-pint of prawns with lemon and mayo and was truly content.
Surely this was it? For days, The Walmgate Ale House was our winner, yet I couldn't shake a nagging suspicion that there remained, somewhere, an elusive extravagance to be found.
And then I had it.
I ventured into The House of the Trembling Madness in Stonegate for their "bread and butter", a vast plate full of Via Vecchia breads, butter, oil and vinegar, a steal at £2.75. And while there, I was suddenly captivated. Behind the bar stood a trove of treats in bulging bottles and I knew our quest was over.
This is how Captain Ahab must have felt when he finally caught up with Moby Dick after months of restless torpor.
A colleague and I returned two days later to claim our own mammoth catch: A bowl of Italian olives; a chilli pickled egg; home-made spicy pork scratchings and mini salamis with a dollop of mustard on the side.
More wonders remained untouched, olives and nuts of every kind. We sat at the bar, satisfied at last, gorging on our plunder and washing it down with pints of Hofbrau Original from Munich.
"Munchen" read the pumpclip. And indeed we were.