Marti Buckley: Basque Country

Nestled in the Northern corner of Spain, the Basque Country is a place of unmatched culinary excellence that brings food enthusiasts from around the world. The region’s historical and cultural roots intertwine with their dishes to offer unforgettable cuisines for those experiencing the Basque Country for the first time. Traveling to another country and indulging in the food offers a window to appreciate the local way of life and the stories behind every dish. Being in San Sebastián for the first time the food is like no other. Michelin-starred restaurants are scattered around town and the smells of aromatic food captivate your senses. Choosing a place to eat a meal leaves you both breathless (from the bike ride there) and stunned at the freshly prepared dishes and inviting chatter of the locals around you. As every day passes by I order more unfamiliar dishes to my foreign taste palate, pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Meeting Marti Buckey, food expert and author of the culinary book Basque Country, was a refreshing experience as we sat outside and listened to her vast knowledge of the food world and Basuqe culture. Marti Buckley’s story began as a part of a study abroad program in Spain with the University of Louisiana. Where like many undergraduate students, she longed to venture outside of the United States and become immersed in a new environment. After coming back from Spain, having a family, and completing her degree, Marti began working in a kitchen for 2 years. Her love for Spain never went away and she soon traveled back with a program to teach English abroad while living in San Sebastián. What was once only supposed to be a year of residing in San Sebastián quickly turned into thirteen for Marti Buckley. Showing that the pull of the Basque Country never loses its grip on all of our hearts. The process of creating a cookbook is lengthy. Writing a forty-page document proposal, finding an agent, and interviewing foodies, friends, and grandparents is not an easy feat. Hearing about Marti Buckley’s experiences, I was surprised to learn of the lack of cookbooks on Basque food before her book had been published. The steps to creating a cookbook takes many skills making sure that it is easy enough for those with little to no culinary experience to succeed in making the recipes listed on the page. With trial and error, revising each dish till perfected, the pages of food in Marti Buckley’s cookbook have become a concise and clear list of steps for readers of all backgrounds to enjoy Basque food.

The most interesting to me was her discussion on the influences of Basque food. Different from other cuisines, Basque food has been “untouched” by other influences of cultures and has stuck to its traditional recipes for generations. Being able to experience truly authentic food, separate from other cuisines is an occurrence to cherish. The Basque people also value their food products. Unlike most, the typical grocery shopping is of purchasing the finest food products to ensure a flavorful meal. Making sure that the product is in season is a step taken before the meal is prepared to thoroughly enjoy a traditional meal of the Basque Country. Not only are the passages in the book about making authentic dishes but there are also a variety of excerpts in the book shedding light on dances, festivals, and pilgrimage walks in the Basque Country. As I read this book for the first time it allowed me to understand the values and traditions of many in this region.

In my own encounters with the culinary experience in San Sebastián, I felt fully immersed in the food lifestyle while going to a pintxo bar for my first time in the city. The event called Pintxo Pote, is my most memorable experience in San Sebastián. This takes place during a specific day and time where people can order a pintxo (small bite-sized appetizers) and a drink for a reduced price than normal. This idea was meant to help boost the revenue of other businesses nearby where people would order one pintxo at one bar and another at the next. The night becomes full of energy in the streets as people rush into shops and owners are quickly taking orders. In this lively atmosphere, I feel fully immersed in the foreign language of Euskara savoring the local flavors and enjoying the company of friends taking in this unique culture.

Marti Buckley described making a culinary book that the Basque people would be proud of, and I believe that this book has not only made the Basque community overjoyed, it has also opened the eyes and broadened the perspective of generations of people to enlighten themselves on the knowledge of the Basque culture.