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Apr 2, 2017 @ 11:51


My friend Olivia’s mother and aunt are preparing quintessential Basque dishes for dinner. There will be blistered padrón peppers, along with baked goods. For the moment, it’s a squid cook-off, and the sisters eye each other’s mise-en-place in the aunt’s apartment kitchen in Biarritz, an elegant beach town wedged between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic Ocean. When most people think of Basque country, they think of Spain, but the region is made up of seven provinces, three of which are in France.

The French portion, called Iparralde in the Basque language, has its own way of doing things. Dinner’s at eight, not 10, and it’s a full meal. While Olivia’s mother and aunt squabble over just how much garlic is too much for their dishes—both end up lovely, though I prefer her aunt’s intensely garlicky version—there’s no debate on the subject of how to properly approach the ubiquitous gâteau basque that follows for dessert: no fork necessary.

Eating the uniquely French Basque pastry, buttery and filled with dark cherry preserves, with your hands is part of the pleasure.

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