Category: Basque gastronomy (page 1 of 4)

Anchovies or Tornadoes?

I arrived in the town of Ondarroa on the second Saturday of May to observe the celebration of Antxoa Eguna 2017.  My bus had arrived a bit early, so I had the opportunity to see everyone setting up their booths in preparation to serve pintxos-all of which honored the anchovy.  As I walked around in the lovely weather, admiring this quaint little coastal town in the province of Bizkaia, I was quickly transported back to my home state of Kansas.

The sound of an air-raid siren filled the air with an ominous howl.  Unlike the famous Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz, I was lucky enough to grow up with warnings of this kind when a tornado had touched down back home in Wichita.  A small part of me instinctively felt the urge to go hide in a basement as I observed people strolling around in the sunny warm weather, free of any funnel clouds.  I later learned that the siren was a call used to notify people that fishermen were returning from sea with the catch.  As my roommate later told me, this signal meant that all hands on deck were needed to unload and get the fish prepared for their auctioning off at the market.

Pretty soon the action started with people arriving at the booths to buy their fried anchovies, croquetas made of anchovies, tortilla with anchovies, and the famous txakoli to wash it all down.  As with many celebrations in the Basque Country, plenty of eating and drinking in the street alongside the sound of the trikitixa (and a good amount of Basque-speakers I might add!) ensued.  The celebration lasted a few hours with families heading home before dinner.  Final observations: I’d take anchovy season over tornado season any day.

 

Photo from Deia, Ramon Basaldua

Deia article for Anchovy Day

Craft’s love for Txakoli

It’s that time again!  If you are in the Reno area (or feel the need for an adventure to the “Biggest Little City”) this month, Ty and his gang at Craft Wine and Beer are putting together quite the Basque gastronomic experience.  I have learned over here in Euskal Herria that tasting is enhanced when able to simultaneously embrace multiple components of the Basque Culture, so check out the shindig Ty Martin has organized this month to eat, dance, and celebrate one of my favorite wines and the land from which it “stems,” the culture in which it is “rooted” ( bad wine jokes anyone?).

Check out Ty’s announcement as seen in his newsletter:

Next, Txakolina. It slipped out of our normal comfort zone last year but we’re back on track this season. As you can see from the photo that greeted you at the top of this missive we’re loaded for bear. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, including smoked chorizo from Villa Basque Deli, cidre’ on tap, and if we’re lucky, a few dancers from the Zazpiak Bat dance club. We’ll also be celebrating some May birthdays so if you want to toast some fantastic wine and shake a leg come on down on Sunday,

May 21st from 2p-6p. Flights, glasses, and food will be available.

 

It appears the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community are represented well here, and the warmer weather is the perfect time for indulging in this juice..so hit up Craft, drink txakoli, dance and be merry!

 

 

Four takes on Basque identity from a food perspective

Check out a lovely article on Basque food and tradition in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country from the gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, in its continual quest to “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Now we could get all highfalutin and scholarly about the nature of authenticity in culture as a whole, but seeing as though this is meant to be a fun blog and a downright celebration of all things Basque… we won’t! Yay!! In the article, author Jane Sigal visits a charcutier, a pepper grower, a baker, and a cheese maker in Iparralde to see how the food they make represents the place in which they live. In  a beautiful philosophical turn, cheese maker Raphaël Eliceche comments that, “My cheese is for sale … Not the Pays Basque.”

Check out the full article here.

*Image: Official seal of Bayonne Ham. Photo  by Émile Pujolle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Major food awards to be held in Bilbao in 2018

It has just been announced that the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, considered by many to be the Oscars of global gastronomy, will be held in Bilbao in June 2018.  Quoting the host organization:

Spain’s Basque Country has long been known as one of the most gastronomically blessed regions of the world, with the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita and a strong and enduring representation of restaurants in the 50 Best list. With everything from fine dining to abundant pintxos, it’s the ideal next location for the biggest culinary party on the planet.

The announcement was made at Basque chef Eneko Atxa’s London restaurant Eneko At One Aldwych.

These prestigious awards, which were held annually in London for 13 years before expanding globally to New York in 2016 and Melbourne this year, will thus make their third international port of call in the capital of Bizkaia, thanks to the generous support of the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (the Provincial Government of Bizkaia), and we’re sure Basques will be ready for the party!

Read more about the choice of Bilbao as the host venue here.

Anthony Bourdain visits the Basque Country

Anthony Bourdain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The well-known travel and food show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which aired on CNN on Sunday, May 7, explored the Basque culinary tradition. Bourdain is a long-time champion of Basque cuisine. As he himself notes:

San Sebastián and the surrounding region has more outrageously good restaurants per square mile than just about anywhere in Europe. Even the bad restaurants are good … The Basque can’t seem to help but make good food from great ingredients … My love for the Basque, for Basque culture, for my Basque friends, is absolute. I hope I will be forgiven for this. But if not, I can live with it.

Check out Bourdain’s field notes here.  These offer up a rich introduction to the main aspects of Basque gastronomy and are well worth a read for anyone interested in this fascinating aspect of Basque culture.

 

The story of Bilbao and salt cod

While in other parts of the world, including the US, fresh cod is a typical part of the cuisine, in the Basque Country, and especially Bilbao, it is dried and salted or just salt cod that reigns supreme. Produced for hundreds of years, the drying and salting of cod was an effective way of preserving the cod caught in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland before being transported across the Atlantic for sale in Europe.

The much prized salt cod. Picture by IanH1944, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But the story of how salt cod came to be so popular in Bilbao is particularly illuminating. In 1824 the Spanish government established state control of this important food source with all imports subject to strict controls. Smaller dealers, in turn, tried to get around the new controls by only making modest orders in an attempt to keep under the government radar, so to speak. In 1835, one such dealer, Simón Gurtubay Zubero–not, as some sources claim, his son José María (who was four-years-old at the time)–sent one of these orders to his supplier in Great Britain. However, a clerical error along the line meant that the order, which was made for “100 o 120” (as in “100 or 120” in English), was interpreted as being for 1,000,120 salted cods. With a flourish of Bizkaian self-assurance (Simón himself, though resident in Bilbao, had been born in Igorre), the intrepid Gurtubay accepted the order and began making arrangements to offload his rather large order wherever he could. Just at that very moment, though, with the First Carlist War (1833-39) already underway, Carlist troops laid siege to Bilbao in 1836, provoking a major shortage of provisions in the city. Suddenly Gurtubay became the savior of the city, with his warehouses full of this now almost priceless commodity.  The city withstood the siege, Gurtubay went on to establish one of the biggest fortunes in the country, using a lot of that wealth and influence to establish the Bank of Bilbao and the Bilbao Chamber of Commerce, as well as to build the hospitals of Basurto and Igorre, his birthplace.

See this short TV report on the Gurtubay family, cod, and Bilbao (in Spanish) here.

Cod Pil-Pil. Picture by jlastras, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And Bilbao came to be the city of salt cod, which is served typically in two ways: in the white pil-pil sauce (really, the natural oils of the fish plus olive oil and garlic) or in the red Bizkaian sauce (made from onions and sweet dried red pepper). Check out the late Hasier Etxeberria’s On Basque Cuisine, free to download here from the Etxepare Basque Institute, for a discussion of and recipes for both sauces. See, too, of course, Mark Kurlansky’s wonderful Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World.

Salt Cod in Bizkaian Sauce. Picture by Tamorlan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kalimotxo: Tradition vs. Pepsi

Today we bring you a post on Kalimotxo, the delicious and refreshing drink that’s popular throughout the Basque Country and is making its way into the United States. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the beverage, it consists of equal parts wine and cola, although the ratios vary by person (I personally like 70:30, wine:coke). I know, you must be thinking, this is outrageous! I propose you try it before making up your mind, especially now that we’re finally getting a taste of summer, at last!

Image Credit: Marie Claire Magazine

The origin of kalimotxo is said to have its roots in Algorta’s Puerto Viejo (Getxo, Bizkaia) during its jaiak (fiestas) in 1972. The story goes that the kuadrilla “Antzarrak” had purchased 2,000 liters of wine to serve at its txosna (bar stands run by groups of friends during fiestas). They soon discovered that the wine had gone bad. However, they were not in the position to buy more, so after several mixes, they came up with equal parts wine and coke. The question was, how were they going to market it? Two of the kuadrilla members were nicknamed Kali (short for Kalimero) and Motxo (Motxorra). They put the two together and voilá, kalimotxo was born.

Puerto Viejo, Image Credit: Daniel Defco, Creative Commons

The reason we bring you this story today is not only to encourage you to take a break and have a drink, but because kalimotxo is slowly gaining fame throughout the world. In fact, Pepsi has come out with a new product in the United States: Pepsi 1893. It is meant to be the perfect pairing to wine. Check out their promotional video on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/pepsi/status/856945990208761861

This glamorous new take on kalimotxo goes hand in hand with the following article from The New York Times, which even includes a video and recipe:

Wine and Cola? It Works

Some might consider the kalimotxo (pronounced cal-ee-MO-cho) a guilty pleasure; I’ve received more than a few skeptical glances when I’ve ordered it at bars in New York. But I don’t feel an iota of contrition when I drink this Basque-country classic. It couldn’t be easier: equal parts red wine (some say the cheaper the better, but that’s up to you) and cola. I like a squeeze of lemon juice for a little brightness, and maybe a slice of lemon or orange to dress it up. But purists might consider even those modest additions a little fussy. The overall effect is surprisingly sangria-esque, minus all that fruit-chopping and waiting, and wonderfully refreshing.

If you can find cola made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup, all the better, but the drink is still fine with whatever you’ve got on hand. The soda’s caffeine actually makes the kalimotxo a fine pick-me-up: an ideal afternoon drink when you know you’ve still got a long day, and night, ahead.

In a glass filled with ice, combine 3 or 4 ounces dry red wine (preferably Spanish) with an equal amount of cola and 1 squeeze lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon or orange slice to serve.

By Rosie Shaap: May 20, 2013

Well, in spite of all the hype, I’m a traditionalist. The best kalimotxos are made from cheap wine (in the Basque Country either Don Simon or Eroski’s own red wine) and are best served with a group of friends on any night, evening, or afternoon. Give it a try, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

For more about kalimotxo and its history, check out the following videos (in Spanish) and book (also in Spanish and available for download at the Getxo City Hall’s website):

“El verdadero origen del Kalimotxo”, EITB

“El origen del kalimotxo”, La Noche De, EITB

El invento del kalimotxo y anécdotas de las fiestas, by Antzarrak: http://www.getxo.eus/es/turismo/descubre-getxo/origen-kalimotxo (scroll to the bottom of the page for download)

 

James Beard Award goes to The Oxford Companion to Cheese

We are proud to announce that The Oxford Companion to Cheese has received the James Beard Award for “Reference and Scholarship” this year. You may ask, are Basques just that obsessed with cheese to write a post about it? Well yes, we are, and I  am definitely the definition of a cheese eater: “A person who eats cheese; a person who appreciates or routinely consumes cheese.” However, the reason we are sharing this news is because Professor Sandra Ott was among the 325 contributors to the book (a whopping 888 pages), hailing from over 35 countries! Zorionak Sandy!

For those of you who are familiar with Dr. Ott’s work, you may not be surprised that she was asked by the editorial board member Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America and professor of anthropology at MIT, to contribute. Ott’s The Circle of Mountains: A Basque Shepherding Community, an ethnography of Santazi (Zuberoa) and its people, is a Basque Studies classic. Part Four of the book comprises three chapters on cheese and cheese-making: 1. The Olha: A Pastoral Institution; 2. Rotation and Serial Replacement in the Olha: Past and Present; 3. Shepherding and Cheese-making. Perhaps the most striking chapter, however, is Part Five: The Concept of Conception. After years living in Santazi, and now decades returning to do fieldwork and maintain lifelong friendships, Professor Ott participated in the town’s traditions and work. It was through this labor, as well as talking to residents, that Ott learned much about Santazi’s cheese-making, the significance of the olha (the sheepherding syndicate’s hut high in the mountains where cheese is made exclusively by men during summer transhumance), and finally the connections between human and cheese conception. Here are Ott’s own words:

Santazi, Zuberoa

These examples show the historical depth and spatial distribution of an analogy that is central to the Sainte-Engrâce notion of human conception–namely, that rennet : cheese : : semen : infant. The modern existence of the cheese analogy of conception in one French Basque community is itself an interesting phenomenon … an attempt by men … to fulfil symbolically the female procreative role and to re-enact symbolically the physical creation of children in a male domain from which women are excluded. In Sainte-Engrâce, this also involves a reversal of male and female sociological roles, i.e. the cheese-making shepherd performs the socio-domestic role of the female head of household and recreates the ideologically female domain of the house in the male domain of the mountain herding hut.

The Circle of Mountains, pg. 212

Professor Ott’s contribution to The Oxford Companion to Cheese deals with the significance of the olha and cultural theories of cheese curdling. Paxson also includes this anecdote in her own book:

When I first visited Major Farm and was explaining to David my early thoughts about an anthropological research project, he asked, “Oh, you mean like Sandra Ott?” and pulled down from a bookcase in the kitchen, shelved next to the Moosewood Cookbook, a copy of Ott’s ethnographic monograph, The Circle of Mountains.

The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America, pg. 52

Although Professor Ott’s new book Living with the Enemy (Cambridge University Press) is set to be released very soon, we can gather that her interests are wide in scope, and who wouldn’t love cheese! As a matter of fact, she has presented numerous times at the American Cheese Society Conference! She sets an example for students like myself in her ability to balance many topics in-depth, while still having time to think about gazta!

We leave you with a review, in case you want to know more. This is what The New York Times had  to say about this doorstopper:

For the Cheese Lover, the Ultimate Reference Book

This new guide to cheese from Oxford University Press is authoritative, but what is surprising is how local it gets. Calandra’s Cheese on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is listed, along with such revered fromageries as Androuet in Paris. And just to show how American cheesemakers are at the forefront of the artisanal resurgence, the book was edited by Catherine Donnelly, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Vermont, with a foreword by Mateo Kehler, a founder of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Hundreds of writers from 35 countries contributed to this 888-page doorstop of a reference book, with entries arranged alphabetically and covering topics like regulations, techniques, history, cuisines, types of rinds, Mexican cheeses (there are some 60 varieties), Chinese cheeses and cheese museums: “The Oxford Companion to Cheese,” edited by Catherine Donnelly (Oxford, $65).

Txakoli & Music: CBS friend offers innovative masterclass in Basque cultural symbols

This past Saturday, April 15, as part of the 2017 Basque Fest celebrations held to introduce Basque culture to Easter vacation visitors to Bilbao, CBS friend Sabin Bikandi of the Aiko group, together with Alvaro García and Amaiur Cajaraville, offered up a lively, informal, and instructive talk and performance at the Basque Museum in Bilbao around the theme of txistu (flute) music and txakolina, the emblematic Basque wine, sponsored by the Bizkaiko Txakolina designation of origin.

Ever the consummate showman, Sabin explained several features of Basque culture with his usual good humor and panache, from the txistu itself–the Basque three-holed pipe or flute–to txakolina of course, a generous glass of which was served to audience members, but also how to wear a txapela or Basque beret, and what music means to him; in short, that music and dance are one and the same organic whole, and that music, dance, and txakolina were all important elements of the erromeriak or public outdoor dances that were traditionally held in the Basque Country.

Check out Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country, Sabin’s wonderfully evocative portrait of a master txistularia or txistu player, Alejandro Aldekoa; a work that also addresses broader issues of Basque music and dance.

And if you do like Basque music and dance be sure to check out the book/CD/DVD Urraska: A New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak Dances as Interpreted by Sagasta, an all encompassing exploration of these representative Basque dances.

 

 

Easter vacation festivities come to the Basque Country

The Baiona Ham Festival

The Easter vacation is becoming an increasingly important time for the growing leisure sector in the Basque Country. This week, traditional religious celebrations coinciding with Easter itself will be held,  in which towns like Durango (with its famous pasinue) and Balmaseda in Bizkaia as well as others all over the Basque Country take center stage.  But there are also a number of other activities taking place to cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit at this time of year. One of the biggest events takes place in Bilbao. The Basque Fest is a specially designed festival combining Basque traditions and gastronomy that seeks to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of Basque culture in all its facets, from traditional Basque sports to music and dance as well as, of course, food and drink. Staying on a similar theme, Baiona also hosts a wonderful festival of its own this week: the Baiona Ham Festival, a must see event for all aficionados of this famous Basque delicacy. Such festivities are, though, just the tip of the iceberg. Towns and cities all over the Basque Country will be celebrating this important holiday season in many and varied ways.

Older posts