A Franciscan University in New York State is Organizing a Virtual Gastro-Tour of the Basque Country

Siena College in Loudonville, New York (halfway between New York City and the Canadian border) was founded in 1937 by the Franciscan order and has a student body of about 3,000.

And in the news section of its website, the Spanish program directors have announced a virtual tour of the Southern Basque Country to discover our cuisine.  Actually, a group of students in this program were originally going to come visit us in the “Spanish region of the Basque Country” and learn all about us through our gastronomy.

We can’t help but smile at the idea that after this trip, some of the French students might visit the “French region of the Basque Country” to get to know their culture and cuisine, and then end up talking and discovering that they’d learned all about the same culture and cuisine: Basque, which is not an addendum to Spanish or French cuisine, because, among other things, there is no “one” cuisine or “one” culture common to all of either France or Spain.

This is, again, the product of our being divided up into two States, which makes it hard for those to understand that we’re not different, but rather two sides of the same country and the same cultural reality.  Not even the different languages mean anything significant: if Switzerland can have four official languages and no one considers it anything but one country, so can we.

But back to the story.  It’s clear that, even though the global pandemic put a stop to the trip, those responsible for it have come up with a way to bring our cuisine, and hopefully our culture, as a country to them.

We’re sure the gastronomy part will be a hit.  They’ve used recipes they’ve found on the blog Blank Palate, written by an “old friend” of our blog’s, Marti Buckley.

We’re so grateful for this University to have chosen our Country to take their students on a cultural expedition to.  And we hope those trips can be made up soon.  We’d love to recommend they visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aranzazu, a world-class religious and cultural center that has been run by the Franciscans since the 15th century.

And because we’re too old to change now, we’d also like to make a request to the professors and students of the Spanish, and also the French, programs there: please don’t teach Basque culture as an “appendix” to something “greater”, because it’s its own, separate, thing.

To help get an idea, we’d love to recommend a few texts in English:

Two are books

Mark Kurlansky: The Basque History of the World 

Cameron Watson: Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno)

The third, which deserves special attention due to its great importance and its author, Founding Father John Adams.  He, along with his son John Quincy Adams, visited the Land of the Basques in the 18th century, and the former wrote about his journey, and included it as a letter about Biscay in his book Defense of the Constitutions of the United States.

And finally, quite close to Loudonville, a 15th-century Basque axe was found, and in addition to being a great historical discovery, it also serves as an introduction to the extraordinary journeys of the Basque whalers and fishermen on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Please enjoy our cuisine and as soon as you can, come pay us a visit.  We’d be so happy to give you a warm welcome!

Siena Collegue – 15/5/2020 – USA

CULTURE THROUGH CUISINE (FROM HOME)

When their course trip to Spain was cancelled, the students took to…their kitchens? Marcela Garcés, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish, taught “Culture Through Cuisine: Exploring the Basque Region in Northern Spain” this semester. She and her 10 students were set to head to Basque Country on May 18, to immerse themselves for several days in the land, language and food they had been studying.

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