Our class embarked on a cultural journey through San Sebastián. I learned that in the Basque culture, food might possibly be the most essential aspect which connects everyone. Visiting all the pintxo bars opened my eyes to a whole other aspect of the Basque country just by simply observing people conversing with extraordinary food. Pintxo’s are a respectable way of socializing in San Sebastián for locals and tourists at any age and anytime.
In America, we typically serve large portions and a full plate of food at each meal. I feel like this resembles the American mindset of “living large” and it’s what we are accustomed to. Being in the basque country I’ve had much time to appreciate the little aspects of life and I say this quite literally because pintxo’s are little cuisines. However, the term “little” should not be taken lightly. It allows us to explore flavor, simplicity, and deliciousness all in one bite with the satisfaction of feeling full. Pintxo’s are made up of any number of food combinations that would not necessarily be found in America. That being said, even though it might be a strange combination to Americans, it’s part of life for the Basques and it’s recommended to give everything a try. The best aspect of pintxo’s, in my opinion, are the smallest ingredients that can easily go unidentified but add much more flavor. There were many I tried that I couldn’t tell one ingredient from another but it was still delicious. It’s important to keep an open mind when trying these delicate finger foods because it can be difficult to know exactly what has gone into it.
Each time we went to a new pintxo bar, I was amazed with the food over and over again. There was no single pintxo that tasted or resembled the one before it. Even though there are many kinds with different ingredients, there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t enjoy. Every pintxo was unique and had a story behind its creation. While hoping from pintxo bar to pintxo bar, it’s easy to get lost or just get absorbed in the everyday life of San Sebastián because this phenomenon of food is embedded in their culture. I noticed that each bar we visited had different characteristics but they were all beautiful in their own way no matter how busy or loud they were.
At the bars, Professor Zabalbeascoa would order our pintxo’s for us and typically pay when we were finished but once in a while it’s required to pay beforehand. We would all gather around a table or anywhere we could find space to try these delicious foods. Then we would discuss what we tried and how we liked it. Some of the dishes were classics such as the gilda or something unique to that one bar. It’s amazing how fast news can spread through word of mouth around the locals because if one bar doesn’t live up to Basque expectations, it will be completely empty. One tradition of the pintxo bars is napkin throwing on the floor to show that it serves great food and has a welcoming atmosphere. So on your next visit to San Sebastián, be sure to stop at the bars with the most napkins on the floor!
While walking through the streets of Parte Vieja, it occurred to me that even though there were thousands of people “bar hopping”, it still didn’t feel like a city. It felt like a culinary hub shared by people with a similar appreciation for the food of their culture. If this were to occur in Boston, it would feel congested and rambunctious which is just another reason why San Sebastián should take pride in their special traditions. It’s incredibly inspiring how embedded the Basque people are in their culture. I admire their willpower to stick to their ways even throughout all of the change our world endures. Although times are changing, pintxo’s will hopefully always stay true to their originality and flavor.
At the end of this pintxo experience I found that all of us were fascinated with such delicious food. As a group we plan on continuing to learn about and enjoy more pintxo’s especially during pintxo pote which is a great time traveling from bar to bar on specific days for cheap prices to encourage socialization among tourists and locals. It not only promotes the bar and allows them to recruit new customers, but it encourages us to participate in another culture and practice our Spanish. During the rest of our time here I’m sure we will be consuming many more pintxo’s and experiencing all the local flavor of San Sebastián!