During our trip to the beautiful San Sebastian, Spain, my classmates and I were lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Marti Buckley, a cook and author who specializes in Basque cuisine. She is the author of “Basque Country: A Culinary Journey Through a Food Lover’s Paradise.” Those who have read her work will quickly come to find that this is not your average cookbook. The pages are filled with delightful photos of Basque delicacies that will make your mouth water. The book also takes a deeper dive into the history behind the recipes and what they mean to the Basque culture. Having this group discussion with Marti was truly enlightening, as Marti was once in my position, studying abroad, falling in love with a whole new country and culture. She explained to us how when she was studying at Louisiana State University, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain and just like that, her obsession and love for this country began. I found myself relating to her story so significantly. This adventure I have begun in San Sebastian is my first trip abroad and I feel as though I am truly seeing what this country and world has to offer. I remember my teachers in high school saying if you ever have the chance to study abroad, do it. I always knew studying abroad would be a great experience, but no stories or photos can explain just how eye opening throwing yourself into a whole new culture and lifestyle can be.
After giving us a brief backstory on how she found herself living in San Sebastian admiring the Basque culture, we were able to get into the topic of Basque food. Marti spent a long three years full of research and interviews amongst hundreds of people including Basque chefs, friends, families, and other locals about their cuisine to create a collection of a whopping nearly 100 recipes. Marti even shared with us some of her favorite dishes and meals. She said she finds herself ordering tortilla de patatas quite often, one of my favorite pintxos, as well! In fact, something that makes the Basque pintxos so unique is that every bar or restaurant you go to will have elements of the traditional Basque pintxo recipe, but the restaurant will add their own flare to it. I have certainly experienced this with the tortilla de patatas. I have ordered about six tortillas so far in San Sebastian and not one has tasted the same, although they have all been delicious! Marti also shared one of her favorite meals, which include grilled squid or octopus. This dish tastes like your typical seafood with a hint of smoky delightness creating a flavor your tastebuds will thank you for. Marti truly immersed herself into the Basque culture. She wanted to be as authentic as possible and felt obligated to stay dedicated to Basque tradition without adding her own spin to the recipes. Her admiration and dedication to this culture in which she fell in love with is so admirable. Having been studying here for just two weeks, I completely see why she fell in love with a city full of tradition, delicious foods, and some of the most warm-hearted people I have ever met. Although the discussion was focused around food, I got so much more out of it, which I feel can be seen as a metaphor for this entire trip. After our discussion with Marti, my mind felt opened and illuminated with the tons of opportunities there are in the world that awaits me. I admire Marti’s ambition, hard work, and dedication to her interests. Hearing about her upbringing and how she got here in San Sebastian has really made me realize that I do not necessarily need my whole future planned out for me. There is an entire world out there waiting for me to explore.