buber.net > Basque > Food > Recipes > Euskosnack
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by Jose A. Zorrilla
This time I think the title needs no explanation. What can be a basque snack? You bet! A euskosnkn, sorry, an ausko.. sorry again an euskosnack, EUSKOSNACK, I'm beginning to have difficulties with my own neologisms, damm.
Is there such a thing as a basque snack? Is it possible that the notoriously immature ppl, always thinking of oral instant gratification had come up with a fast, convenient, healthy and easy kind of food?
All of the above. There could be some discrepancy in the paragraph "healthy" though for me it is out of question that the snacks I'm gonna offer you are healthy. They give an enormous amount of pleasure, there is nothin worse for the body than stress and suffering, therefore they are the best possible medicine. In case of doubt do not consult your physician, he may have ideas of his own.
Of course this is a special case of approach to health. We left you last week in the very smokes of hell trying to cope with your neighbour's wrath and cursing like mad for not having respected the old saying " good smokes make good neighbours". So, in a way, the healthiest thing you can do for a while is duck and wait. Cook a snack, for instance, while time that all heals, heals your ex-friends exasperation.
Since you have began to make acquaintances in a multicultural shopping environment it'll come as no surprise to you that you have to do a little outing on putza grounds, that is, hitting the hungarian meat shop again, the one where you obtained paprika, Imre's turf, do you remember?
We are gonna need Imre's cooperation to obtain *non salted and non smoked* bacon that Italian and Spanish people call *panceta*, many latinamericans 'chicharron' and the hungarians tyorsty. I know it is not simple to find such a commodity in the American market but you better do something about it for we'll resort to it relatively often. Imre has to have it, some handy Portuguese might have it too. My candidate is hungarian. They are as wolfdowners as the basques. Only they die before because they hit pork more often than us. As the saying in Austria goes. *If God had wanted us to eat fish he would have given us the sea*. Which is a black lie, of course because they had a sea and didn't care a cent. Go to the port of Trieste. It was Austrian till 1919, so, you see, they had a sea and did not eat fish at all. Being basque and being in Trieste you must visit the Cathedral. You'll find there the tombs of the Carlists pretenders-there is even one King. And prepare your latin because even if the code(the nationalist one, of course) says they were basques their tombs' inscription are in latin. We are getting more and more multilingual, love it.
BTW Trieste has the most Begonya like of all the hills I've the privilege to see. Uphills to hit the church, I mean. Steep, tree covered, cemetery nearby...light is similar too.
We leave Trieste, that sad and clean port, and go back to the joys of cooking. We have reaped the fruit of our insistence and why not?- have left Imre hyperglad to see that we love hungarian cooking (a perfectly innocent lie). We have some corn flour too. The mexican food store around the corner is delighted to see that we are going peladito and beginning to make burritos at home.
None of the two is right, of course. For we are going to cook the most basque of the basque food, homemade, country like and plain. That is...(fanfare)
What, talo, house in Finnish?
Do not rush to the telephone. Don't pester the Basque Academy with the finding of all times.Stop that enthusiasm, you have not discovered the Great Enigma,the Basque language and the finnish language have nothing in common. It is a well known fact, easy, easy.
So there is talo and talo. Which of the two? Ours, of course, talo= corn bread. Talo undignified flat tortilla, that's all. Talo, tex-mex of the XVII century.
Vital story, this corny affair. For centuries the BC was in very difficult position. Little wheat in the country. Of course there was some. But not much and if the crop was not good, and many times it was not good, it could not be good, there was famine. The roads were very poor and did not begin to improve till the end of the XVIII Century. So no way the wheat could arrive cheap and in time. I read once a thesis on the subject. To build a decent connection across Ordunya took ages.
So, corn solved the problem. As in many other wet parts of Europe, Northern Italy, for instance. Polenta is everywhere. Remember Novecento?
So, talo is-was- everywhere too, though I have not seen any baseritarra cut his ear in sign of protest and despair. Wait and see. Who knows? After next elections perhaps.
Corn was so pervasive in green BC that corn became synonimous with country yokels. It's difficult to call a basque peasant a redneck because sun is rather scarce. So the little masters from Bilbao called them "borono", literally, corny, people of the corn. That was of course before the days of political correctness. And before the corny guys disappeared for good. There is not such a thing as a true baserri in the BC-or at least this is Miren Etxezarreta's conviction. She wrote an impressive book on the subject. But when I was a kid they still existed and in one of them they used to greet me with the usual expostulations of alarm (pealing of bells, sound of sirens etc) and the amama (grandma) in order to placate my almost certain misdemeanors ushered me to the kitchen where she cooked talos and talos...which were delicious of course but which did not prevent me from say, stoning a couple of chickens, fight to death with the neighbour's kids and set fire to the nearest haystay.
So, what is the recipe of that most homely deli?
Get some corn flour and water and make a flat tortilla. Throw it in a pan and cook both sides. Get the hungarian bacon and cut a slice around half inch thick. Now this is very important. This ain't no fancy southern kitchen with a nanny, so I want my bacon flat and well done but no curly or wafer like or whatever. We are a people of guys who like chewing and bacon is for chewing. So stick to the half inch and well done*but no more than than well done*. Put the bacon on the talo, fold and eat.
Repeat the process as many times as necessary.
To be honest talo goes with chorizo too. But to find chorizo is impossible. I don't even find it myself when I go home so, go and figure! Yet, if you are in the mood to try the nearest thing to it go for italian *salciccia napolitana*. It is not meant to be cooked but you may try. In any case this is as far as you'll go. In the US, that is. And everywhere, what the heck! Good basque frying chorizo is over, my friends. At least of the quality I was used to when kid. Out of accuracy's sake, argentinians and uruguayans make a kind of chorizo too. Good luck!
All that does not apply to an all-basque immigrant community or even a Spanish one without basques. They *may* make outstanding chorizo. Are you that lucky as to live near one of them and like to give a try?
A most important remark. Bacon and chorizo are the taste of wealth and in many instances the baserri's taste did not reach these heights. What was the taste of the poor's winter? Talo, chestnuts and glands. That was all they had. If there were oaks nearby the peasants went and picked the glands out of survival logic. Many times in many basque baserris that was the staple winter diet. It could go with curd too. Do you know how to make curded milk- (mamiya, cuajada)?
You have to obtain a chemical product that curds the milk. Ask for help in the nearest health food store. And then *non pasteurized* milk. Otherwise it does not curd. Mix and leave overnight. Mamiya is an excellent remedy for just about any digestive disease. I know, I had to put up with it every time I had diarrhea. Loved it, though.
As for the glands I have never tried them being as I am a town guy. And no, glands are not a delight, rather a survival trick. So, unless you are an anthropologist you are kindly advised to stay out of it.
What would be a decent end for that hearty amaiketako? (basque for snack) Say cheeeeeese!
Now, excuse me, there is no use in my giving you a lecture on the subject of basque cheese, the purpose of these postings being to try and help you to find the right stuff, no more. So I'll restrict myself to the most popular of the basque cheese and the one which is easily obtainable...provided you hit a French deli store.
AAAAAAH! Yes, I know, it is difficult, I didn't say it was gonna be easy.
So the core of the basque pride is to be like nowbody else. Well, well, my friends, after many years of withdrawal symptoms and careful research I have been able to replicate many of our delis...in the most unlikely countries. This one in Corsica, that rebel French island. The corsicans make one cheese absolutely like...IDIAZABAL. Yes, follow me. So, you enter a French deli store, nose your way to the cheese space and look for *smoked goat corsican cheese*. And that's it. Small,(has to, all sheep or goat cheese are small) brown, slightly greasy...that's the one.
Wolf down your cheese back home. And add some of the following. Grapes, yes, grapes, my aunt used to say that grapes and cheese taste like kiss. She being single and chaste I guess this is all she knew about kisses. Though about cheeses she knew a lot. Sort of countervailing the issue.
Or how about walnuts? Big, stout californian walnuts. Or even chestnuts. In my neighbourhood chestnuts are for anybody to pick. So I pick them and after carefully cutting one end (otherwise they explode)I put them in a pan, I cover the pan with a lid and wait impatiently till they are roasted after the inevitable and harmless pan, pan.
If you have a fire place you can roast them there. It is the right time of the year. And while you peel them in good company evoke the slow stream of time. Autumn has come and with it the fallen chestnuts and the red leaves. Like them we are bound to pass and vanish. Like them, others will come afterwards. Autumn, time of inevitable decay and future renewal. If you still remember your Homer bring about the most fitting quotation. "The lineage of man is like the lineage of leaves. Leaves blossom and then fall from the tree and are swept away by the wind. So are men. Generations are born and then die to make place for the next." Iliad, I forgot the lines.
One day my buddy Fernando and I were at his place eating chestnuts when a funny old man wearing a hat came in and stayed with us for a moment and while joking and telling stories he chipped us some fruits. Didn't really appreciated it,you know? We were gallant indian warriors preparing ourselves for the assault to the fort (the basement, actually) and the white man interrupted the ceremony. We were eight at the time and I always remembered the old man because hats were not that common those days. Many, many moons later I read in the newspaper that ETA had killed him for having refused to pay the revolutionary tax.
Time to finish off the bottle of wine and go to sleep.
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Jose A. Zorrilla