Basque Cuisine: Why It Mols*
It might seem like all I do is eat, but I actually devote some time to thinking about things. Like, for example, what I'm eating. It's almost always incredible, which begs the question...WHY?
Why is the food here so dang good?
There's a lot of reasons, actually. In fact, what you have in Euskadi is a perfect, self-perpetuating storm of factors that lead to a disproportionate (and well-deserved) prominence in world gastronomy. I recently read over the manuscript of a talk given by the chef Fernando Canales in which he outlines some interesting thoughts.
Cuisine here is one of the best in world because:
- people think it is. This, of course, isn't what made it the best in the world, but it's a reason that the cuisine continues to be relevant and continues to evolve.
- the economy here, which has always been one of the best in Spain. It allows people to focus more on the luxuries of life, like cooking well instead of just to get by.
- location, location, location. Its proximity to France, the mecca of world cuisine, has inevitably been a factor. Its nestled between mountains and sea, offering access to game, farmed animals, seafood, and farming space. The location also contributes to another factor:
- the weather. It's in a climate that produces the best products in the world. It's the same mild climate of Italy, northern Greece and the south of France. Good natural conditions for chefs. Also, it rains a lot, and perhaps the time spent indoors has made it so people spent a lot of time in the kitchen, placing a higher value on cuisine in general.
- its tradition. Where there are amazing chefs, there are amazing stage opportunities. The knowledge gets passed down to young cooks via the kitchen, during their internships. But then they have to find a job. So what happens is you have cooks in random pintxo bars that know their stuff and won't settle for less. So the bar is set high.
Have I forgotten anything?
*PS: Mols is an English-Spanish hybrid that comes from molar, which may or may not be a really hip way to say something is awesome. Its use seems to be limited to the San Sebastián metropolitan area.