Tag Archives: basque lifestyle

The Food Club in Mondragon

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The Food Club is very unique and interesting place. All of the food clubs are located only in  Mondragon/Arrasate, Basque Country. Anyone can enter in the food club by paying a certain amount of money and every month he or she must do a payment. If you are an owner of the food club you can invite different people there but somebody just from a street can not enter there.

Traditionally, in the food club only men cook. Before women were not even allowed to be there. Nowadays, it has changed but still, men in a kitchen are more important.

Different owners can be gathered under the same roof. They have particular tables and schedule, when they can come, cook and eat with family or friends.

“We eat here almost every week with my family because it is more comfortable and cheaper” – says owner of a food club Lander.

Basque meals

Food club is very suitable place for celebrating different holydays. For example, on Marixtu Kajoi (national holyday in Mondragon/Arrasate) when all restaurants and bars are full with people, this is a best opportunity to do.

For 15 or 20 euro you can have snacks. 1st and 2nd meal, dessert, different drinks, cocktails, vine and other alcoholic drinks.

Basque people prefer to do different sorts of meat with potato but everyone can do what he wants.

“After a dinner we like to drink coffee and smoke a cigar. It is a kind of a special ritual” – explains one of the guests of the food club Dennis.

It is typical to drink on a dessert cocktail which is made from sparkling wine, ice cream and lemon. It refreshes you after a plentiful dinner and gives energy to party longer.

Food clubs are not only places to eat cheaper, but it is also a place to gather with friends, discus disturbing topics and spend time with pleasure. Pictures you can look here.

Un kalimotxo, por favor!

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Wine in BC it is so cheap, that you can get drunk with 5 euro-)) The most famous and origin drink of BC is kalimotxo. We drink it almost every day.  You need: coca-cola + cheap red vine + ice = nice refreshing cocktail. Try to drink 5 or more and then you feel happy. NB! Don’t look at a mirror because you can be afraid of yours blue or black teeth.

We also tried here a black vodka. Is very nice black shot which makes your teeth go more black then, but after 5 kalimoctxos you don’t mind. This vodka have something like bubbles in it and blueberry taste. I like it, so when I come back to Estonia I am going to introduce all that stuff to my friends.

 

Also, BC produces its own wine called Rioja. It has very rich taste and cost approximately 2 euros.

First day in Arrasate/Mondragon

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 When I woke up the first thing what i saw when I opened my window were mountains. You can feel the fresh air and freedom everywhere. Live in Modragon is very slowly and relaxed. And I love that. There is no where to hurry.

What are the most important things to do at first day?

  • It is very difficult to get used to siesta. Everyday we have siesta time (from 1-2 pm to 5 pm). At that time nothing works (exept chinese shops) All bank are working only till 1 pm.
  • It is better to do a buscard at first because it will take you one hour in a line in a shop and two weeks of waiting ordinary plastic card. With a card you have almost 50% discount.
  • After you`ll better to buy a phonecard. It costs 10 euro but messages to anothers countries are very expensive. So sometimes it is easier to buy the cheapest phone with a card
  • Also, is very strange to have a dinner at 9-11 pm. In my country (Estonia) we don’t have such an opportunity because most of citizens go sleep at 10 or 11 pm and we take more care about their figure and not eating after 7 pm.
  • Don`t be scared if you meet someone and this someone begins to kiss you and hug you. Basque people are very warm and kind, so they are just happy to see new faces and do that everytime.

At the end of of busy day go to a bar or meet with friend to share your feeling =)

Jon Warren: on San Sebastian and food

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jon-paginaJon Warren first arrived in Donostia-San Sebastian around 2002 on an ordinary summer’s evening that would eventually prove life-changing.

Stopping off for the night during a road trip down to Portugal, the vibrant atmosphere and sight of copious pintxos on the bar convinced Jon and his friend they had hit fiesta-time: “it was like: wow!”

Such was the draw of the place for Jon that on the way back they decided to spend two nights in the Gipuzkoa capital: “We had such a good time; standing on the Concha (beach) I said to my friend: ‘I’m going to live here one day’.”

True to his word, Jon returned to live in the city, though not after four years working in the City of London.

“Working in London.. I never really felt excited. Everyday on a desk,.. doing something I wasn’t passionate about, you think ‘surely this can’t be it’.”

“I quit my job in November 2007 just knowing I wanted to do something else… Doing this, I absolutely love it because every day’s an adventure, doing my own thing.”

Jon’s “own thing” is San Sebastian Food, his own self-run tour business. The aim of the company is to provide tourists over on a short break to the Basque Country with a culinary insight they may otherwise miss. It is inspired in what Jon calls his “six-month gastronomic adventure” sussing out the bars and discovering the best pintxos.

Jon’s personal interest in food is more broadly centred on the entire experience of eating; something which may be linked to some of his earliest memories: “I’ve got some great food memories, but always linked to the people I’m with. “

Reflecting on what aroused his love for all things culinary, Jon recalls his uncle Paddy, an “adventurer” who lived mostly in Sierra Leone, given to roasting whole pigs and baking bread on visits home to the family. It is an almost tangible memory that evokes warm summer evenings and smells of spit-roast pork wafting over lawns of playing children.

Capturing that more sensuous experience is what underlines a lot of Jon’s tours, which move away from the often sterile sensation of a restaurant, to the shouts and smells of a packed bar or busy farmers’ market; “I love Michelin-starred food but I’m a lot more interested in the social side of things,… pintxos, the cider houses, where it’s all about meeting your friends and chatting”.

Life change

Jon made the move to San Sebastian in January 2008. After an 8-week language course at Lacunza he went “armed with dodgy Spanish, a basic CV but plenty of enthusiasm” to seek work at the Villa Soro hotel in Ategorrieta. He did “a bit of everything.. bellboy, porter, barman…” though it would later prove to be a significant decision.

Aside from becoming for many guests an unofficial guide to the best places to eat, he would also, ironically perhaps, meet his English girlfriend Nicole, who came to stay at the hotel one weekend with a group of friends:

“She moved out here last May and I have her to thank for helping me so much; from brain-storming to proof reading she has helped enormously.”

As far as his success this side of the Atlantic, Jon is unreserved in his praise for the Basque people whom he has encountered over the past three years: “They’ve been so incredibly friendly from when I arrived… such warm, open people, so happy to help..

“Thanks to friends, for example, I’ve been able to make contacts with the cheese farm in Urnieta where we Jon Warren - culinar#7B6835do a tour with the owners,” says Jon.

Jon is modest about his own contribution to his success, a trait that goes down well in this part of the world. He is, by his own admission, sociable and often “gets chatting to people”, a characteristic of a natural networker and one that has helped him to open a lot of doors into the heart of the Basque culinary experience, sometimes literally.

Jon says his “strongest” food memory was in the Rioja with Nicole looking for somewhere to eat. With a predilection for talking to people – “old ladies especially” – they were finally led by one senior citizen to a restaurant that was seemingly locked up:

“She turned the lights on and said ‘right, what are you having?’; she cooked this lunch just for us with a nice bottle of wine…

“It was nothing amazing; the TV was blaring and the food wasn’t fabulous but for me that’s what it’s about: That incredible, unique experience”.

Jess Soodeen: ‘I grew up hearing all about Basques’

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ear_plugI first met Jess Soodeen in Azkoitia’s noisy(-est) bar Dean one night, where she’s become a regular face. Shouting into her ear, I wanted to know what brought her to a small town like Azkoitia. (Answer: a one-year Masters in Motorsport Engineering with local race car team, Epsilon Euskadi). My second question was, what on earth was keeping her here: “I love it!” she declared. And it wasn’t the drink talking – she’d just come off stage after gigging in the town’s main square with local veteran group Dirección Obligatoria.

For those who don’t know, Azkoitia is a Basque town of around 10,000 inhabitants situated within the Urola Valley near the heart of Gipuzkoa. By their own admission Basques take a while opening up to outsiders and in few places is this more evident than in Azkoitia.

But Jess is unphased: “I walk down the street and people say hello to me,” she says cheerily.

Aside from her integration into Dirección Obligatoria, Jess confesses to having three ‘cuadrillas’ (notoriously tight-knit friendship groups, typical in the Basque Country) and since her time spent in Azkoitia learning Spanish, has also managed a fair amount of ‘Azkoitiarra’ (a local dialect of the Basque language Euskera).

It is perhaps no coincidence that most Basque Country Live interviewees commonly share a culturally diverse background, and Jess is no exception,  starting with her surname: ‘Basically, a few centuries back a man who they named Soodeen jumped on a boat in Calcutta bound for Trinidad,’ she explains. At another time and place, meanwhile, a man named O’Leary (an ancestor of her mother) made a similar journey to the island the Irish called Talamh an Éisc, “land of the fish”, or Newfoundland, a large land mass off the east coast of Canada with strong historic ties to the Basque Country, based on whaling and cod fishing: “When I found out about the course in the Basque Country I said ‘I’m going there’; I grew up hearing about the Basques.”

And so to Euskadi…

Jess jumped on a plane bound for Valencia armed barely with a word of Spanish. But then, with a career spent both working and racing on the motortrack, she has had to be ballsy. It is an environment that requires tough decisions and quick thinking: “As a woman in the field, you have to earn respect and the fact that I’m not only a motorcycle racer, but also the mechanic of my own bike… these things work in my favour”.

Jess’s interest in motors goes back to 1999 when a group of mates “rigged it” for her to win bike lessons. She started r5racing in 2003 and by 2004 was only riding circuits. In 2005 she bought a Yamaha TZ 125 GP bike all the way from New Zealand and began tinkering. A degree in mechanical and a masters in motorsports engineering is, says Jess, “fine and dandy,” but it was hands on recognition that she needed, which is why she rebuilt her own motor: “I bought the bike to learn mechanics and this way gain respect for my ambitions as a circuit engineer”.  So why the switch to cars? “When I found the course in the Basque Country I realised that having education in cars as well would benefit my motorsports career in general in Europe.”

Not that that was the only factor that drew her our way: “I was fascinated by the Basque Country because of its history with Newfoundland,” says Jess. “I researched Azkoitia before I came; I had a picture of the indoor market on my computer screen for six months before I got here.

“Between the ages of 9 and 10 I lived in Libya. The rest of the time I lived in Calgary (a city of just over a million inhabitants) but all my summers were spent in Newfoundland.” Though essentially a city girl, Jess confesses to being something of a provincial soul. Something to do with all those long summers?

“Absolutely. The largest town in Newfoundland (capital San Juan de Terranova) has 100,000 inhabitants. That’s about the size of Vitoria.” To give  you an idea of the depth of the history between Euskadi and Newfoundland, thirteen of the Canadian island ports have Basque names, including Baya Ederra (Beautiful Bay) Port aux Basques and Balea Baya ,Whale Bay. (Basque whalers were recently cleared of having caused the extinction of the species off Newfoundland’s famous Labrador Bay).

Future prospects

With all these things in mind, you get the sense that Jess has discovered her spiritual home, the addition of Epsilon Euskadi (recently moved to Vitoria-Gasteiz), satisfying another important part of her ambition – working in motorsports – a dream she’s close to fulfilling:

“After completing my masters in 2008 I stayed one year more as an internship student doing race engineering with Epsilon Euskadi. Then they offered me a contract to start work this year. On 23rd December I found out they couldn’t give me the job.” (Current Government policy is to give preference to home-grown candidates where possible).

“Obviously because of the current employment situation I understand why they did it, but it was a massive blow.”

Despite this setback, she remains positive and intensely fond of her adopted hometown. On the job front, things are looking up as well: “With the contacts that I managed to make during my time spent at the circuits I have managed to find some contract work with another team based in Switzerland, racing in German, French, and Italian circuits. It’s still not full time work, but my dream of a house in the mountains and only working in circuits is on its way.”

The Basque lifestyle, my cup of tea!

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When we arrived here, people told us that a typical stereotype about the Basque people is that they are quite shy and don’t easily make contact with strangers. But the experiences I’ve had with the locals seem to prove the opposite! Continue reading

When in Bilbao..

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When in Rome, act like the Romans they say. Well, I’m not in Rome today but in Bilbao. So what do these Bilbaínos do, so I can act like them? At the moment I encountered these people they were certainly not having their worst moments in life. It was downtown in the Casco Viejo,  the old part of the city, where things just seem to go a bit slower.

 

The Bilbaínos, sometimes called botxeros,  were going from bar to bar, often facing the cold and taking their consumptions outside. Even though, in my Northern European view, it had been dinner time long ago, people just kept eating these small fancy bites. Pintxos they called them, and they were undoubtedly flushed away with ample quantities of wine, cider or other funny beverages Bilbaínos seem to enjoy.

 

 

Trying to imitate their behaviour, we started eating some of these pintxo’s. Great opportunity for overcoming your dislikes for certain products because half of the time you don’t really see what you’re eating. But usually they look and taste damn good! After one pinxto and one Txakoli, typical Basque white wine, we hit another bar, just like the Bilbaínos.

 

In the next couple bars, it was the same story. We tried all sorts of interresting pintxos, with tuna, cured ham, cheese, tortilla de patata and more.. Happy days for my vegetarian girlfriend, who joined me on my expedition. The food has to go with a drink so we tried rioja, patxaran, licor de manzana and of course the famous Basque apple cider. Quite enjoyable..

 

 

After these pintxo bars emptied, we came aware of the complete ravage the Bilbaínos left. One could literally find anything laying on the floor; pinxto sticks, pieces of bread or other food, cigarettes, napkins and all other sorts of rubbish. Well, when in Bilbao, act like the Bilbaínos, so I just turned my plate upside down, smiled kindly to the waiter who was about to pounce on this lovely heap, and moved on to the next bar.