My grandkids, Zack and Grace, have grown up with homemade, from scratch. meals, and both like to help prepare the food. Zack brines and cooks a delectable turkey and Grace specializes in chocolate desserts. First thing I did today was wind my way through Old Town streets to find the charcuterie that sells the best pintxo cookbook, according to Keith, yesterday’s guide. The Basque culture revolves around food, and pintxos embody the essence of that culture, utilizing all natural, unprocessed, and local foods. Grace is a vegetarian and there are plenty of pintxos that she will enjoy. I’ll be visiting them soon and we’ll share Basque cooking experiences as I tell them about their ancient Basque past – too many generations ago to ever enumerate by name.
This particular charcuterie centers around the meat of acorn-fed black pigs which sells for 220 Euros for a hand-sliced pound. I bought a small package to make a few pintxos. Although my diet generally includes very little meat I’ve been enjoying sharing the Basque diet as part of my immersion in their culture.
Aurkene is the shop owner’s name, and her shop is called zaporejai. She tells me that the pigs are free ranging and only eat organic acorns. The meat is dried for five years and requires no refrigeration. Homes often have a leg mounted in a special frame on their counter top, and small pieces are sliced off for flavoring while cooking, or just for a snack. Aurkene says that San Sebastian is a very good place to be. The Basque Country has its own government and is mostly independent from Spanish rule. It has the best economy of any other area in Spain because of the manufacturing of cars and train parts and other heavy industry needs. Tourism is growing, mainly because San Sebastian is on the Camino de Compostela route. A college education is free, and health care is free for everyone as well. There’s no need to own a car, as you can walk everywhere. Basque people are extremely independent and proud of their heritage – so don’t mess with it! Euskera is the Basque language that Franco tried to outlaw, but every child learns the language now. A language which no other Spanish speaker can understand even a word of! I know no Euskera, some Spanish and found that I had no problem communicating, mainly because many people here speak English.
Basque Fishing Legacy
I visited the Aquarium today. Most of the exhibit was devoted to the history of fishing in San Sebastian. “Documented evidence shows that maritime trade existed along the Basque coastline as of the 1st century A.D. The granting of fueros (local jurisdiction) to different towns in the late 12th and early 13th centuries would constitute what we could now call the beginnings of structured Basque maritime trade.” Long before Columbus “discovered” America, the Basque were sailing their vessels to what is now Newfoundland, and establishing villages there to process and ship whale products.
Both of my grandchildren participate in the sport of rowing. Rowing is one of the oldest and most physically challenging sports still in existence today. Crew grew out of competition among fishermen to race to return to port to be assured of selling their catch. Whalers sent out the long boats to surround the whale and ensure the catch for their captain. As whaling and fishing declined, competition on the water continued between cities. In Spain there are annual regattas that continually draw big crowds.
Tomorrow is my last day in San Sebastian. I’ll visit the Naval Museum, search out the local genealogy group, and later in the day, end my stay with a relaxing massage—as I contemplate what I’ve experienced since I arrived. I’ve become acquainted with this city, these people and their customs and culture, in the geographical area where my first known ancestors lived during the Ice Age. It’s a gift I’m giving to my grandchildren, and their children, and so on. I have no idea what it means but I know it is very, very important.