23 Signs You Grew Up Basque [BuzzFeed]

BuzzFeed

I decided to do a little something different this weekend. I wrote up a list on BuzzFeed called 23 Signs You Grew Up Basque. Please check it out and share it with your social networks. Like it, tweet it, comment on it, and/or post it on Facebook.

Also, at the bottom of the post, you can click those little Your Reaction icons to move it up in the BuzzFeed lists. As always, thanks for your continued support!

Fiction Fridays: Discord at Dance Practice

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

The following weekend at dance practice, Patrick delivered the promised DVD to Brigitte during one of their many water breaks at the clubhouse bar. Brigitte accepted it, beaming at his thoughtfulness and the opportunity to be a part of his life in some small way.

“You remembered,” she cooed.

“Of course. I told you, it’s only the greatest movie of all time.”

“That’s a bold claim.” Maia snatched the case out of Brigitte’s hands. “Reservoir Dogs?” Her upper lip curled into a sneer. “Never even heard of it.”

“You should watch it with Bridge then,” asserted Patrick.

“Pass.” She rolled her eyes and handed the DVD back to her friend.

Ignoring Maia’s rebuff, Patrick turned his attention back to Brigitte. “You have to watch it tonight.”

“Okay, sure.”

“Seriously. Let me know what you think.” His eyes connected with hers.

“Okay,” she laughed, a subtle blush creeping into her cheeks. Margo could tell her sister loved the attention. “Did you watch my show?” asked Brigitte, as she placed the DVD case on the bar.

“Oh yeah, I did.” Patrick nodded coolly, his eyes darting to the bottles of liquor behind the bar. “Watched a few episodes online.”

Brigitte took a sip of her water with an unsteady hand. “What did you think?” Her doe eyes studied his face, as he continued to avoid her gaze. Continue reading

How to Make Basque Sheepherder’s Bread

*Correction* In an earlier version of this post, I labeled this bread “taloa.” My attentive readers, who are much more knowledgeable than I am, brought to my attention that taloa is a completely different type of bread, more of a Basque corn tortilla than a loaf of bread. I apologize for the error, and I encourage anyone who has a recipe for taloa to send it my way so I can test it out.

An adorable old Basque sheepherder from Arizona explained to me in detail over breakfast at Centro Basco a few weeks ago how to make sheepherder’s bread.

I didn’t take any notes, as a lot of what he said went way over my head and I figured my readers weren’t actually going to dig a hole in the ground to bake their bread like the sheepherders would. Maybe some of you are that diehard, but I’m definitely not.

So I took the easy route and scoured the internet for Basque sheepherder’s bread recipes. I decided to try Buber’s recipe, because it seemed simple enough (only seven ingredients!) and because Buber is the boss of everything.

For the sake of proper attribution, everything in bold comes from Buber’s page directly. The recipe goes as follows:

3 cups very hot tap water
1/2 cup (1/4 lb) butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 pkg active dry yeast
9 to 9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Salad oil

In a large bowl, combine hot water, butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until butter has melted; let cool to about 110 degrees.

This was fun, because I’d never melted butter with hot water before. Those sheepherders were some resourceful dudes!

Stir in yeast, cover, and set in a warm place until bubbly (about 15 minutes).

For some hella Basque style points, cover the bowl with some Basque linen.

Beat in about 5 cups of the flour to make a thick batter. Stir in enough of the remaining flour (about 3 1/2 cups) to make a stiff dough.

bread

Turn dough out onto a floured board; knead until smooth and satiny (10 to 20 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Now this is where you get really tired. The first ten minutes of kneading was fine. Fun, even. But the dough got harder and harder as time went on, requiring more effort on my part. Eventually I got hella flushed like I had just gone through some vigorous Sun Salutations. I started whining at the timer, pleading for the seconds to tick by faster.

In the end, I came out with this bad boy:

bread

Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Finally, you get a break! And after the rest, you end up with this cool-looking thing:

bread

Punch dough down and knead briefly on a floured board to release air; shape into a smooth ball.

The punching part was fun. Going back to knead some more, not so much.

bread

With a circle of foil, cover the inside bottom of a 5-quart cast-iron or cast-aluminum Dutch oven. Grease foil, inside of Dutch oven, and underside of lid with salad oil.

Place dough in Dutch oven and cover with lid.

My dough didn’t end up very “satiny,” but it would have to do.

bread

Let rise in a warm place until dough pushes up lid by about 1/2 inch (about 1 hour — watch closely).

It took longer than one hour (notice how it’s nighttime outside), but it actually did pop through the lid eventually.

bread

Bake, covered with lid, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes or until loaf is golden brown.

bread

Remove from oven and turn out onto a rack to cool (you’ll need a helper). Peel off foil and turn loaf upright. Makes 1 very large loaf.

breadExcuse me. “Very large loaf” is an UNDERSTATEMENT. I had no idea going into this (as I’d never actually seen taloa before) that the bread would take up the entire Dutch oven.

I guess it makes sense that a sheepherder would want to make lots of bread at once, since it takes quite a bit of time and effort to put this whole shebang together. But WOWZA.

In terms of taste, let’s just say that it’s a hearty, earthy kind of bread. It’s got a unique flavor that isn’t altogether unpleasant when eaten plain, but the bread was a million times better toasted with a little butter and jam. Oh my God. Then it was a knock out.

I had to freeze half of the loaf, but I’ve used the other half to eat toasted with fried eggs and to use as French toast for breakfast. In both cases, the sheepherder’s bread was a total hit.

If you’re willing to put in the time and muscle power this recipe requires, I think it’s definitely worth giving it a try. I wouldn’t bake it on a regular basis, but if you’ve got a lot of hungry people to feed, this could be the bread for you.

You can also check out these other recipes for Basque sheepherder’s bread to compare:

NPR has a recipe from a little cookbook called From the Sheepcamp to the Kitchen: Volume II.

Ben Plaza from Ontario, Oregon shares his recipe through the Oregon Historical Society.

Cooks.com offers one.

And Euskal Kazeta shares a similar recipe.

If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out!

Related articles

The Most Ridiculous Basque Proverb

Children! Be quiet until the chickens pee.

– Basque Proverb

Original: Umeak! Isilik oiloak pixa egin arte.

chickensI had to post this proverb because it’s kind of hilarious. I’m a city girl to the core, so I’m assuming “until the chickens pee” is the same as until they wake up? Like, the kids are supposed to be quiet until morning? Right?

I think all Basque parents should say this to their children on a regular basis. Let’s make “Be quiet until the chickens pee” a thing, Amerikanuak.

Basque Music Roundup

I asked readers for their suggestions of Basque bands and musicians to check out. Here are a few of the favorites they named. I hope you can find at least one you like!

*Disclaimer: I do not speak Basque or Spanish, therefore I cannot and do not endorse any of the messages within these bands’ lyrics.*

Sustraia – Rock, from Hélette

The internet tells me this band is rock, but they sound pretty ska to me. What is with Basque people loving their ska?

Betagarri – Ska, from Vitoria-Gasteiz

I will never be able to drill out the memory of a bunch of middle-aged Basque Americans going nuts on the dance floor over this band at Basque Rock Live. These guys are crowd pleasers.

Kortatu – Ska, from Irun

Ska music usually annoys me to no end (it’s something about the trumpets…), but I’ve heard this song so many times that I kind of love it. There are some great memories attached to it.

Eskorbuto – Punk, from Santurtzi (Greater Bilbao)

Love the punk sound on this one.

Soziedad Alkoholika – Crossover Thrash, from Vitoria-Gasteiz

From what I read on Wikipedia about their controversial lyrics, I’m not a huge fan of this band. But some of you might like their sound.

BONUS! Félicien’s Cum-Cum Mania

Okay, okay, so this guy isn’t Basque. He’s from the Béarn, right next door. But this song absolutely cracks me up.

One year when I went to visit the Basque Country, this song was THE song, all over the radio, everyone singing along. If you speak French, the lyrics are quite amusing. Enjoy!

 

 

Real Talk: Why Dating Basque People Sucks

A couple of weeks ago I extolled the social and cultural benefits of marrying a fellow Basque person, but let me be frank about why this is a far away dream for many of us. In a lot of ways, dating within the Basque community presents challenges. Let’s explore.

1. Pre-Relationship: Flirting, Crushing, “Talking”

Traveling around to Basque festivals, meeting great people both at Udaleku and picnics… All of those things are lovely. But sometimes you get stuck with a not-so-great situation—like if you actually find someone you want to date.

Say you meet the person of your dreams, from another Basque club. You hit it off and you’re totally into each other. Eventually it’s time to go home (whether from Udaleku or a picnic/festival/Convention/Jaialdi).

The reality sets in that your new friend lives in Elko, Rock Springs, Boise, Winnemucca, or any of the other Basque American towns hundreds of miles away from where you live. Or even worse, you fell for an actual Basque person, FROM THE BASQUE COUNTRY. Then what?

For many young people, that one festival with your honey is all you get. We’re not in a position to move, leave school, quit jobs to make the picnic romance last. And for many people, trying a long distance relationship is way out of the question.

So that’s it. You’re just left with a smidge of post-picnic depression and a hope that maybe one day your fling will miraculously work itself out and turn into something more.

2. Dating/Relationship

Now, let’s say you’re lucky enough to find someone from your own Basque club you’d like to date (and who wants to date you back!). Congratulations! That’s awesome. Everyone loves a cute young Basque couple.

But maybe a little too much… People begin to constantly ask you about your relationship, wanting to know where you see it going. People joke and hint about marriage and kids, even if you’ve only been together for a month.

Then the betting begins. Your friends and family place bets on if/when you’ll get married or if/when you’ll break up. Your relationship is completely open to scrutiny from members of your Basque community. People get all up in your business.

And you’ll definitely hear it from older people or even your peers if you show any amount of PDA at a Basque function. Everyone is happy you’re in a relationship, but absolutely no one wants to see evidence of it.

3. Break Up

The cold hard truth is that many relationships end in break ups, even Basque ones. And if you thought people were invested in your relationship before, this is the time when you find out how much they actually are.

People pick sides in these break ups. Not just your friends and family, as you might expect, but people you had no idea even knew who you were or cared about your relationship status.

Inevitably, community members pick someone to blame for the break up, and Lord help you if you become the scapegoat. Breaking up with a Basque person can be quite uncomfortable.

I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve seen time and again Bascos having to “take a break” from community events after a break up to avoid uncomfortable conversations. I’ve heard people say some really horrible things in the midst of a Basque couple’s break up.

So while many of us aspire to finding that special someone from within our communities, the reality is that dating a Basco is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of dedication and patience with nosy people.

For me, right now, it’s not even worth the trouble.

Do you think it’s worth the effort to date a Basque person? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

6 Ways to Impress an Aita

If you’re lucky enough to be dating someone from our lovely Basque American community, the big meeting with the family is inevitable. Meeting your partner’s dad, specifically, can be incredibly intimidating.

Basque dads, a.k.a. Aitas, are remarkably tough or easy to please, depending on your perspective. Get a few simple things right, and you’ve got his approval. Get them wrong, and you will forever be known as that skinhead who took his daughter to prom (true story).

To avoid Aita’s immediate disdain, be sure not to utter any of the Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Girl’s Aita. To win him over completely, take the following advice to heart:

1. Respect his family.

Whether you’re dating his son or daughter, the #1 way to impress an aita is the same: respect his family. Do not interrupt his son or daughter (presumably your boyfriend or girlfriend) when they speak, keep PDA to a minimum (or even better, leave it out entirely in his presence), make eye contact when speaking, greet everyone appropriately, compliment him on his home, and thank him for his hospitality.

Above all else, Aita wants you to be someone who will integrate well into the family, not someone who will shake things up. Find the balance of being polite and respectful without being a suck-up, and you’ll go far in winning him over.

2. Be Basque.

Aita loves fellow Bascos, especially as potential spouses for his children. If you’re of Basque descent, you’ve won half the battle already just by your genealogy.

However, check to see if you come from a family the aita in question likes. Basques are known to have their prejudices and disagreements, so it’s no use being Basque if Aita doesn’t like your family.

If you’re a Montague, don’t be surprised if Capulet Aita gives you the cold shoulder at first. I won’t tell you to stay away from the Capulets entirely, as love is love and opinions can change, but just know you might have to work a little harder to prove you’re better than those family members of yours that Aita dislikes.

Now, if you’re in no way, shape, or form Basque: show appreciation for Basque culture. Your honey should have filled you in on the basics, so you should know a bit about it. Ask Aita about where he came from, tell him you love Basque food, or just express that you would love to learn more about the culture. Respecting his family’s roots is key (see #1).

3. Show knowledge of any of the following: agriculture, sheepherding, cattle ranching, dairy farming, landscaping, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, construction, car maintenance, property management.

Preferably, have knowledge in Aita’s specific area of expertise, but it helps to know something about any of these topics. Most likely, Aita has spent his entire life engaged in manual labor or as part of a family that has, so showing appreciation for his background can go a long way.

To have him instantly love you, actually work in any of the fields listed above. Aita will automatically make positive assumptions about how you make good money, how hard of a worker you are, and how handy you are around the house/garage/yard.

If you don’t know anything about these manly fields, don’t make stuff up or pretend that you do. Aita can smell a fake from a mile away. Just ask him questions about his work and show interest. That’s how my charming, white collar ex managed to crack my Aita’s tough exterior.

4. Present yourself as clean cut and polite.

Ditch the ponytail, shave the beard, dress appropriately for the occasion, cover up your tattoos, take out your piercings, show up on time, and accept any food and drink offered you with a “thank you very much.” Aita doesn’t want any hippies, punks, skinheads, gangsters, or hoochies associated with his family.

Part of good presentation is making sure your car (or truck–Basque bonus!) is clean and well maintained. Yes, Aita will most certainly judge you on your vehicle of choice. Make sure you stop by the car wash before you head to his house.

5. Be prepared to answer difficult questions.

Like all dads, some aitas are quiet observers and other are a little more in your face. Prepare for the more confrontational ones just in case–even the quiet Aitas have brazen Amas for wives who would be happy to ask you personal questions.

Be able to articulate what your intentions with their son or daughter are. Practice tactfully answering whether you practice a religion, want to get married, want to start a family, hold certain political views. Being ready for anything will make you look cool and confident under pressure. Aita will respect that.

6. Bring him wine.

You can check with your boyfriend or girlfriend to see what kind of alcohol Aita likes best, but chances are you can’t go wrong with a bottle of wine.

If you’re more of a green thumb, Aita also loves homegrown fruits and vegetables so bring those along. They could be an excellent conversation starter.

If all else fails with the first five steps, Aita won’t think you’re a complete loser if you at least have the decency to bring him a bottle of wine.

What other things would you add to this list? What impresses your Aita or Aitatxi?