Food meets culture

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.

2022-06-29

The kitchen is the heart of the Basque home and of great importance in Basque society. The high level of culinary prowess in the Basque Country makes it one of the world’s gastronomic meccas. Writer and journalist Hasier Etxeberria (1957-2017) offers a snapshot of Basque food culture in the book ´Cuisine´ and reveals some of the culinary details. The first edition of the ‘Basque´ collection, promoted by the Etxepare Basque Institute, came out eight years ago. The entire series is now being updated.

What defines Basque cuisine and what is the relationship between traditional Basque cooking and the new auteur cuisine? Etxeberria delves into the history of Basque cuisine and explores the road travelled. He also writes about how the profession of chef has changed over the years. The aim of his book is to identify the factors that determine the personality of Basque cuisine, while at the same time giving a broad outline of its current state.

“Undoubtedly, this is a question that involves multiple aspects: memory, product, customs, climate... Besides, Basque cuisine cannot be treated as if it were done and dusted. We cook every day and our cuisine is constantly evolving. The question is the meaning and the basis of this evolution,” Etxeberria insists.

New Basque Cuisine was born in the 1970s when chefs Luis Mari Arzak and Pedro Subijana, who had studied under Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, brought the movement known as Nouvelle Cuisine to the Basque tradition. At the same time, chefs were gaining traction in the media. Basque gastronomy is now at the cutting edge of many of the movements that are emerging to innovate and rethink cooking and, along with Arzak and Subijana, several Basque chefs have been recognized on the international stage, including Elena Arzak, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Martín Berasategi and Eneko Atxa.

Today´s Basque cuisine is not merely a matter of redefining traditional recipes, but a kind of synthesis of the creativity of great chefs and the tastes of the people. The ingredients and cooking techniques are changing, but the Basque trademark maintains its own distinctive characteristics. In our cuisine, ingredients are fairly simple. Texture is as important as flavour; intricate sauces, spices and flowery herbs are not used much; and dishes are based on a few ingredients that are used again and again.

Local products are the cornerstone of Basque cuisine, with different ingredients and preparation techniques in each province. On the coast of San Sebastian and Gipuzkoa, fish predominates, and special attention is paid to freshness and texture. In the inland cider houses, the beef chop is the king of the grill. Bilbao and Bizkaia is a land of fish with more intense flavours, especially cod and sardines. Dishes in the drier south are often flavoured with rosemary and thyme, meat is grilled over smoldering grape vines, and snails, game, trout and crayfish are common. The cuisine of the French Basque Country is heavily influenced by French cuisine and there are few dishes that are typical of the area.

About Basque Culture

This project originated in 2012 when the Etxepare Basque Institute first published the twelve monographic books on Basque cultural expression that make up the collection. The idea behind the initiative was to provide up-to-date engaging, accurate information that was easily accessible for anyone interested in learning more about Basque creation.

The titles and authors of the books were: ‘A Brief History of the Basque Language’ by Ivan Igartua and Xabier Zabaltza; ‘Basque Literature in the Twentieth Century’ by Estibalitz Ezkerra; ‘Basque Classical Music’ by Karlos Sánchez Ekiza; ‘Basque Song: Pop, Rock, Folk’ by Jon Eskisabel; ‘A Collection of Prints’, dedicated to visual arts, written by Miren Jaio; ‘Basque Cinema’ by Joxean Fernandez; ‘Architecture and Design’ by Peio Aguirre; ‘Basque Dance’ by Oier Araolaza; ‘Bertsolarismo’ by Joxerra Garzia; ‘Traditions’ by Joseba Zulaika; and ‘On Basque Cuisine’ by Hasier Etxeberria.

Most of the books in the collection have been or are currently being republished in 2021 and 2022 in three bilingual formats: Basque and Spanish, Basque and English, and Basque and French. All of them are available free of charge in digital format.

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