Basque Country and the people who live there have a unique history and culture. I’ve set my new novel in this interesting locale as well as in Paris. Basque Country is such a fascinating place I decided to share some interesting facts about this somewhat mysterious region. In my first post I wrote about the history of the Basques. This time I’ll share a few things about their current culture.
- The classic beret we associate with the French was first worn in the Basque region and then exported to France. Basques wear their large berets with pride.
- A Basque, Ignatius Loyola, founded the rigorous religious order, the Jesuits in 1534.
- Basque architecture is rather unique. The traditional buildings of have a low roof, half-timbered features, stone lintels and are typically painted in red, white and green. Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac lived and worked in a Basque house.
- The Basque flag consists of a white cross over a green saltire (a heraldic symbol in the shape of an X) on a red field. The colors of the Basque flag are red, green, and white. The red color of the field means Biscay, the historical Basque homeland. The white St. Andrew’s cross means the independence of the Basque Country. Green symbolizes the oak tree of Gernika, symbol of Basque freedom.
- There are many food specialties in Basque country. Gateau Basque (cake) is a traditional dessert made up of almond flour with a filling of either pastry cream or preserved cherries. The soft, crumbly sable dough is flavored with a little rum and baked in tart rings. Piment peppers taste a bit like peach and sea brine, and are quite spicy. Piment peppers are delicious on Bayonne ham which is an air-dried salted ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne. The ham has to be produced from one of eight clearly defined breeds of pig reared in an area from Deux Sevres to Aveyron and Aude. The production of the ham is strictly specified and regulated. All the Bayonne is ham marked with the Lauburu, the Basque Cross. Izarra is a popular liquor from Basque Country. The almond-flavored Yellow Izarra, is a 40-proof alcohol made from 32 herbs. For a peppermint taste, there is Green Izarra, made from 48 different herbs and is stronger than 48 proof. It takes 15 months to produce Izarra plus another six months to mature in the barrel. Basques drink it straight, in cocktails and to flavor chocolates and other desserts.
I write about the unique and remarkable Basque history and customs in my upcoming new novel.
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