a pincho at Lizarrán in Madrid

a pincho at Lizarrán in Madrid

The Basque Country, in northern Spain, is well known for its gastronomy; the Basques tend to be very creative with their cooking, and pinchos are often like “little pieces of art”.  I went this past weekend to Bilbao, the largest city of the region, with a few simple objectives: to see the famous Guggenheim Museum, to learn more about Basque Culture, and to eat well.  And I believe that I have indeed accomplished them.

So then, what is the difference between a “pincho” and a tapa?  A pincho tends to always be a piece of bread, topped with a tasty assortment of ingredients.  In Bilbao we stopped at a place to eat pinchos, which were arranged on various plates on the bar.  Each one is speared with a toothpick, which serves two purposes: one, to hold together the sumptuous pile of ingredients, and two, to tally the tab.  In fact, pinchos get their name from this very toothpick: in Spanish, “pincho” means “skewer”.

My friend and I scanned the various plates and finally I settled upon one, a piece of bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with goat cheese, and tomato slices, all held together with the toothpick.  The goat cheese was fresh and creamy, and the tomato was sweet.  I liked it so much, I helped myself to another.  My friend chose a pincho with a mixture of cheese and ham (never underestimate the Spanish’s love of their ham), and seemed equally pleased with her selection.

After you’re all done, the bartender counts the number of toothpicks left on your plate, and tallies the tab based on that.  At just one euro per pincho, we didn’t pay much.

In Euskera, the Basque language – the only language in the world with no known relatives – “tx” represents the sound “ch”, and as such it’s very common to see pinchos written as “pintxos”.  My friend and I also enjoyed a breakfast of “txocolate con txurros”, as there were many places offering this classic Spanish dish – fritters and a thick chocolate to dunk them in.  Thus I’ve derived the name of this blog, and thus I shall dedicate an entry to this particulary tasty and not so healthy Spanish tradition.

Shortly upon arriving in Spain this time around, this being my second time, I read on a tourist pamphlet, “don’t forget, gastronomy is part of our culture”.  As such, this blog will explore the wonderful, amazing, delicious gastronomy of this Mediterranean culture.  ¡Viva España!  Y ¡vivan los pintxos!

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