In the Basque Countryside

This is the view from my room in San Sebastian:

And this is what I had instead of dinner because it turned out to be uncommonly hard to find any food here in the mountain:

The way this became dinner is as follows. I wondered for a while in the mountain until I finally found a very small local restaurant. The way such places work is that the farmer family that runs the restaurant cooks a single dish and people can buy it. Once the dish runs out – which can happen at wildly unpredictable times of day – the restaurant closes. Asking for a menu at such a place produces the reaction similar to a request for a perverted sex act. You are supposed to show up and eat whatever is there. Then you can leave or stick around but no new food will be forthcoming on that day.

Yesterday turned out to be a very good day, at the farm, so by the time I arrived, the dish had been eaten a long time ago and the restaurant owner, a Basque farmer in his seventies, was drinking cider with a group of very young men.

My arrival in search of food and especially my Spanish in this completely euskera- speaking environment made an effect of a comedy show. The owner spoke some rudimentary Spanish, making the young men almost collapse with laughter, and started showing me photos of the times when he was a well-known athlete of some very Basque sport. This was sometime during the Franco era, so I forgot all about food and started leafing through the album.

Right at the moment when the farmer was pressing a glass of cider drawn straight from the wall into my hand and explaining that back in the day he had the kind of muscles that I was bound to appreciate if only in photos, the farmer’s wife appeared. My presence did not feel her with the same kind of good cheer as it had the men. She broke into a long and angry speech in euskera, out of which I only caught the words “cider, young, blonde, and bastard.”

I slipped away and renounced my search for food for the time being. Anyway, who needs food when there are still places somewhere where one is perceived as a young blonde capable of causing marital strife?

5 thoughts on “In the Basque Countryside

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