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JATEKOA: Basque cuisine & drink

News stories:  Nevada Basque Food     Smithsonian magazine article 
World's best female chef (she's Basque!)    
www.anentertaininglife.com  

Eva Holt-Rusmore:  Baserrias preserve Basque culture through agrotourism

Martha Rosemeyer:  A guide to peppers of the Basque Country

Related Links:  Basque recipes     Visiting Basque chefs     
Basque-American restaurants      Culinary Institute           NABO "Txerri-Jana" Chorizo/Lukainka & Tripota/Morcilla Contest  
Txoko: Gastronomic Societies

Basque Drinks:  Sagardoa: Basque hard cider      Patxaran: the Basque liquor      Picon Punch

The phrase “you are what you eat” takes on new relevance when we explore a people’s gastronomic habits as a way to better understand them and their culture.  This is also one of the most enjoyable ways of becoming acquainted with a people, especially when these people are the Basques.  Basque cuisine enjoys a renowned reputation, both in Europe and many others corners throughout the world.  It is good food and fun to eat.  Perhaps you have had occasion to sample Basque cuisine, most likely in a Basque-American restaurant of which there are literally dozens throughout the United States .

There is a difference, however, between the characteristic Basque cuisine of Euskal Herria and what we are accustomed to here as being Basque food. Meat represented a regular staple of the traditional American diet, yet the same did not apply in the Basque Country.  European Basque cattlemen and sheepmen had more difficulty acquiring ample pasture for their livestock in the narrow mountain valleys and plains.  The result was higher prices but also leaner, tastier meats that while short on quantity delivered high quality.  Pork livestock equally plays an important and often surprising part in traditional Basque cuisine. 

While the earth provided limited resources, the sea offered more abundance.  Seafood is what accentuates traditional European Basque cuisine.  It is these recipes that have garnered international fame.  The varied assortment of North Atlantic fish is simply broiled or prepared in one of the many notable sauces that typify traditional Basque cuisine.  Then to road out the meal, there is always an ample supply of bread, some good wine and cheese for dessert.

Basque-American restaurants incorporate elements of this European tradition with their American context.  There are various reasons for this; e.g., lamb is a Basque favorite here because of the traditional importance of the sheep industry in the history of the Basques.  Lamb is usually the main entree at most Basque picnics.  In addition, American cuisine has always accented meats and Basque-American restaurants adapted themselves to their clientele.  Finally, the “family-style” serving derives from the Basque-American tradition of the boarding houses.  The hearty platters of food were readily consumed by the young Basque immigrants who earned their living with long hours and arduous work. 

Thus the American context added new elements, but traditional staples remain.  Many restaurants and Basque clubs continue to serve Basque delicacies for the daring diner that include “tripota / morcilla” or blood sausages, “txerri patak” or pigs-feet, and of course “Rocky Mountain Oysters.”  Hungry yet?  Hopefully you are near a Basque restaurant.  There are also numerous Basque cookbooks that are available to get you started.  On egin!  Enjoy!

Basque-American restaurants