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buber.net > Basque > Food > Recipes > Txik-a-trito and Basque Tapas
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Txik-a-trito and Basque Tapas

by Jose A. Zorrilla

Now that pumpkins reign supreme, and children go everywhere dressed like gnomes and witches and Supermen and other lovely fantasies to collect a toll of kindness, time has come to explain a most typical basque habit, a roaming habit too, only not seasonal but daily, not child-like but adult-like and of no pumpking content but alcoholic intake. Txikiteo.

Txikito, is a sort of Spanish-Basque word for defining a kinda collective behaviour that puzzles anthropologists and sociologists alike but who has not found yet a Frazer or a Margaret Mead. Could become though the Ph. D. of the century. "Txikiteo and the Big Mother in Artecalle at the turn of the XXth Century" or "Urban development, txikiteo's local lexicography and the Donosti's Old Quarter 1994/1995" or "Txikiteo as defined by social strata and feminine subculture angst in Amara on the eve of XXIst Century"

Academic crap? Maybe. Yet, in a classic study on how the values of the vanquished in the Civil War arrived intact to the 70's, txikitos and cuadrillas (the buddie's gangs) were prominent.

Well, in short. Hordes of guys and girls, grouped in small units bonded by undefined affinities but of very strong emotional content (vid."cuadrilla") take to the streets of the BC before the meals and roam from bar to bar having wine glasses and talking. An anthropologist would put in such a scientific jargon that nobody would understand it. I told it in the simple words of a renegade. Yes, time has come to tell you the real reason i left for good. It was not the police, as some of you might romantically have thought. It was not the lost love of a neska, not even the fact that i was politely requested to move my ass to other University...no sir/madam. No. I left because i hated txikiteo. Now, you can be anything you want. You can even be a Bilbao Atleti supporter in Donosti and a San Sebastian fan in Bilbao. But what are you if you are not a txikito guy in the BC? Nothing. Worse than nothing. A pariah, an outcast, even, God forbids, an intellectual. No way. Why did i abhor and still abhor txikiteo?

First, the rambling quality of it. You enter a place but you have to leave soon. You stay just the time to sip a glass of wine, look around and say goodbye.This urgency, this "i have to go and to stay" at the same time is exhausting.

Second. The noise. No way to maintain a civilized flow of talk. There is a kind of permanent aural aggression going an all the time.

Third. The quality of the wine is nefarious. Vinegar-line. Undefendible.

Fourth. All you say are the most banal of the truisms. Just bringing the topic of, say, the last movie you saw yesterday is watched with suspicion of highbrowism. Soccer is the thing, gossip, backbiting...not my cup of tea, talking for the sake of it. Tightlipped sort of bloke for this kind of mumbo jumbo, sorry.

Fifth. Women on the one side, men on the other. Most acute sexual dimorfism in the world. Now, i don't like it. I work with women, I discuss my work with women, some of them happen to be above me and it works like hell, never a problem, sort of getting along just fine, fine. So, what is all this story about us/them? Not me, not me.

Now you know. I'm a pariah allright. More the txoko type, we meet in an cozy place, cook and discuss. A kind of euskoacademy. That's a different story. Chicks come too. Of course. And there is Mozart and Haydn all around. And at the end of it, a sublime pil pil pops up as if by magic and everybody dips the italian bread in the sauce and even the most tighted assed of the tighted assed wasp overcomes centuries of constipation and dips, oh, yes, dips his bread into the concoction and is haaaaaaappy. So am I. And we discuss Blas de Otero, translated into English alongside Saint John of the Cross and Miguel Hernandez, and the sublime music of Juan de Anchieta...and Scarlatti's Mass of Aranzazu... Erice, of course, a true password for cognoscenti the world over... trying modestly to make my guest forget about these pitiful image of cave warriors other basques proudly display. Just trying.

Yet...the unspeakable bond of a cuadrilla...when after a miserable day full of the whips and scorns of the newspaper editorial...the contumely of your boss...the delays of the tram...you hit "your" guys...and everything runs smooth...and you know not matter what they would stand by you...AH! Well, my fellow Basqamericans, you know these joys not. And here it is yours truly to help you reenact that primeval bond in your new homeland. How?

Now is trick time, you may have kids, or even if you don't, you are supposed to act like a good neighbour and reward the kids that pop at the door. Just anything does. You make them happy. But how can they suspect that their gestures of wonder make you even happier? Kids are the poetry of the earth. And the happiness of these little creatures is a universe of joy. I love these tiny Ambassadors of innocence knocking at the door and waiting for a token of grace. Only this time it is our duty to concentrate on the grown up that goes with the little one. We'll offer him what we in the BC we eat with our txikitos. It is not "tapas", once and for all. Tapas are tapas and pinchos are pinchos. So, no tapas in the BC. We cannot employ "banderillas" for this is a term borrowed from bullfighting and bullfilthying in just that, unacceptable PC and therefore nil. So, pincho is a good word. Say, "pinch" in English, "weat" (contraction of wee and eat),anything you want. Not tapa. If you are keen on your basque ways, of course. No need to overdo it.

What treat can you offer your fellow neighbour? What in turn can he offer to you in that kinda gastronomic rambling am i proposing?

Let's begin by stating that this is not intended to make you break the law.The US are rather tight assed when it comes to alcohol so perhaps it is not a good idea that you receive your fellow fathers and mothers with the canonical "White or red?" as if you were a basque bartender asking what wine they want. BTW, the normal thing is white wine in the morning and red wine in the evening. To accomodate those who go for a beer, 'zurito' is a minuscule beer glass, and mosto is for kids and some strange people. Grape juice. This is the wet menu.

Now for the object of the posting. Pinchos.

Let's begin by all the things that are preserved either in salt or in vinegar. "Encurtidos" in Spanish, vaguely similar to "pickles".

1.- Olives. Pierce a couple of them with a toothpick,(the toothpick is the thing in all this.OK?) and add an anchovie and a tiny piece of hot chile preserved in vinegar. Humble, effective, a most widespread pincho everywhere around.

2.- A piece of canned tuna, again a hot chile in vinegar, an olive or two.

3.- Cucumber in vinegar, olive, anchovie. With or without hot chile in vinegar.

4.- Canned tuna and Spanish canned red pepper (the only way to eat preserved red pepper IMHO)

5.- Pickled onion, cucumber, chile and olive.

A combination of the above. Do NOT eat the toothpick. Just throw it somewhere.

Non encurtidos.

Egg based.

1.- Half hard boiled egg, one piece of canned asparagus, a boiled shrimp, some mayonnaise on top.

2.- Beat canned tuna, the yalk of a hard boiled egg and some mayonnaise. Stuff the hard boiled egg with that.

3.- Put some italian tomato sauce on a pan and add tuna. Make it thick, short of tomato, that is. Put the resulting paste on the hole of a hard boiled egg. Use the yalk, crumbled, for decorating the dishes.

Egg and mayonnaise in all possible manner or combination.

This is a real world approach to that lovely american tradition of trick-a-treat that makes kids sooooooooo happy. Of course if you have chorizo or txistorra, pork scraps (finally i found the american word equivalent of our panceta, bacon wihtout smoke or salt, but i think the term is rather an oddity, a thing of the past), cheese,italian prosciutto, any preserve (sardines, clams, etc) or talo you can go for it. Punch them to a slice of italian bread with the ubiquitous toothpick and here you are, acting like a bar owner in, say, Ordizia. There are warm dishes too but i want to offer them in the proper context of a meal, as an appetizer or a main course and not as a trickytreaty delicacy.

Happy pumpking day. If you abide by my ways not only kids will be happy, growns up will be too. And if *HE/SHE* hits the doorstep...good hunting my fellow girl/man, happy txik-a-...well the treat will depend on your ways to obtain it.As to the recipes above, they are my modest contribution to your happy end.



Jose A. Zorrilla
Fax 416-925-4949

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