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Gastronomy: Modern Cuisine in Euzkadi
by Tr: Diane E. Graves
English translation of "Gastronomia", one of the series of "El Pais Vasco, ven y cuentalo" 2nd edition, January 1993 Author: Patxi Anton Idroquilis Editorial: Gobierno Vasco, Departamento de Comercio, Consuma, y Turismo. Viceconsejeria de Turismo. Translated unofficially by Diane E. Graves
Chapter 2: Modern Cuisine in Euzkadi
In 1976, the need to renew the traditional cuisine was felt by several young chefs, coinciding practically by divine providence with a bit of luck. Two restless Basque chefs who are presently the genuine stars of their cuisine, happened to come together in the course of several seminars with the great French chef Paul Bocuse, the forefather of the "Nouvelle Cuisine". However, there were many Basque restorers who felt the need to reflect upon the Basque cuisine and to modernize it. The traditional recipes were falling into disuse, quality was often being replaced by exaggerated quantity, curiosity and restlessness were being lost, and in general the cuisine was risking falling into monotony.
Likewise there were many chefs that joined this creative movement that has led to a profound renewal and broadening of the Basque recipe collection. The inflexible dogmas were done away with, as they incorporated new ingredients, new methods of preparation, new flavours and textures, and new combinations.
The conformity and surrender to the "classic" recipes disappeared as well. Each chef converted his hearth into an environment of experimentation and research, and consequently an astounding quantity of new contributions was made to the Basque cuisine, which hasn't diminished in recent years.
This "original cuisine" as we may call it, has been adopted enthusiastically by natives and foreigners. Without renouncing in the least the fundamentals of traditional cuisine, attempting to modernize it and adapt it to the new dietetic demands and to the new tastes of consumers who valued creativity, imagination, and the joyful "surprises" that are presented by the recipes of the restorers, the "nueva cocina vasca" ("new Basque cuisine") hasn't been an ephemeral phenomenon, but rather it has been the foundation of modern Basque cuisine, a mixture of tradition and innovation.
Dishes from this initial period, such as "lubina a la pimienta verde" (sea bass with green pepper), "pastel de kabratxo" (kabratxo pastry), "crepes de txangurro" (spider crab crepes), and "ensalada de angulas" (baby eel salad), and countless other innovations have become classics and have given enthusiasm and curiosity back to restaurant guests.
Nowadays, the most acclaimed chefs are joining forces with new generations of processionals, usually coming from schools of cuisine and hotel management, and to their solid training they are adding the desire to continue to contribute their new ideas to Basque cuisine, as well as to personalize their creations and offerings. Because of all this, the Basque cuisine, with a solid past and a brilliant present, offers a promising future.