A Conversation With Marti Buckley

Marti Buckley is an American author best known for her cookbook Basque Country: A Culinary Journey Through a Food Lover’s Paradise, which was released September 2018. We had the opportunity to sit down with her one on one and listen to her story. To be honest, I did not know much about her or her writing prior to this conversation other than having heard Professor Zabalbeascoa’s previous praise and recommendation of her book. However, I didn’t give it too much thought because how interesting could a cookbook really be? My opinion changed drastically after listening to her speak. 

Buckley began her story by establishing a connection between us and herself. She explained how her affinity to Basque culture began when she was just 21 years old studying abroad in Pamplona which is only an hour drive from where we are in San Sebastián. She also made it clear that the Basque Country was not her top choice to study abroad at since her heart was set on Madrid. Looking back she could not even remember why she wanted to be in Madrid so badly, since she instantly fell in love with the Basque way of life. It goes to show that everything happens for a reason considering this trip essentially paved the road for the rest of her life. When she got back to her ordinary life in America, she went through many jobs including various writing gigs, but what stood out the most was that she actually got hands on experience in the kitchen for some time. She learned the hard way about the stress that goes on behind the scenes at a top notch restaurant and she had scars on her arms to prove it. This experience allowed her to gain a new mentor and insight in the kitchen. However, after being fascinated with the Basque Country in college, she always felt the urge to go back, so when the opportunity arose to return to Spain years later, she took it in a heartbeat. Her one year trip eventually became her new life here in the Basque Country.

Along with her tips on the best pintxo bars and sit down restaurants in San Sebastián, Buckley offered some more valuable life advice. She emphasized that we should let the flow guide us and not rush the process it takes to get to wherever our final destination may be. Although the Basque Country accounts for only a small portion of Spain and France, Buckley realized that she still had so much to learn about this small area before she could write her book. Similarly, back home we get so caught up in the difficulties of the semester that we fail to appreciate the beauty of getting an education. However, this past week and a half in San Sebastián has been a different sort of experience. Each day I have been able to absorb so much of the Basque culture that would not have been possible without physically being here exploring the city and interacting with the locals. It was not until this experience that I realized how big the rest of the world is. I grew up in the same small city of Revere for 20 years and though I have travelled within the US, this is my first time in Europe. Buckley as well the international students I have met in my Spanish class at Lacunza have inspired me to travel beyond this trip.

Some may say that the Basques have a hesitancy to try new things mainly due to the fact that they had to fight to defend their land and language for so long. But, as Buckley, said a huge factor which makes Basque cuisine so unique is the simplicity of it. That is what I am enjoying the most about this experience. Almost every street we walk through has a small market offering fresh produce. There is also an abundance of fresh seafood markets with a wider selection of products that I have ever seen. People here take their time walking through the streets — really appreciating and taking in the area around them. The atmosphere is so different from back home where it feels as though everyone is racing to get through life. It is this simplistic way of life which I hope sticks with me upon returning home. I have learned here that there is no direct path in life. We will encounter detours that will help shape who we are for better or worse. And who knows, I might even move to Spain in the future.