Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Basque Table

The Basque Table

Basque of Northern Spain

The Basque Table is a borrowed title from author Teresa Barrenechea with Mary Goodbody

As we ready ourselves for Basque Studies to begin April 16, we reflect on who we are as a family in our community.  Although we have no bloodline connections with the Basque people, we share the fact that our parents and grandparents immigrated to America and we share cultural contributions within our society.  Our venture to learn more about the Basque is to discover the Basque influences that continue to thrive in our Nevada communities.  We are most eager to share the experience of Basque food, as it lends itself to the culture of a people.  For the Basque, their food is the topic of daily conversation.  They take their meals, both lunch and dinner, very serious!  It’s an honor and a luxury in their culture to head home for these meals, no matter what age.  The Basque embrace shared time with family and friends as a major part of their meals to the extent that children often do not move out of the house until married and sometimes they wait for the birth of their first child.  This is an obvious sign of the strength between child and parents in the Basque culture and legend suggests it just may be due to the culinary art produced by mom.  We embrace strong family bonds for ourselves and hope to learn more from the Basque.

My husband, our son, and I are Native Nevadans.  I have subtle memories of Basque peoples as a child, through the eyes of history from expeditions my father took us in the Southern Nevada desert.  We hiked a lot and explored the ghosts towns of the old west often, where remnants of the Basque people remained in the form of rickety fences for housing their sheep, a lone plaque noting a trail they frequented.  However, I do not recall recognizing the Basque for their culture, traditions, and as a people who played a role in the formation of Nevada communities.  As a parent, and a teacher, I am intrigued with learning more about the people who were part of the establishment of the old west.  The Basque, to me, seem to be the quiet people of our land whose old world traditions continue to thrive here.  When I was in college at the University of Nevada, Reno, I learned more about the people and their contributions by eating at the variety of Basque food restaurants in downtown Reno.  I also toured small, almost deserted towns, like Empire and Gerlach, North of Reno where I further discovered a taste of Basque influence at Bruno’s Restaurant.  If you find yourself heading to the Black Rock Desert, be sure to stop and say hello to the old-playa-salt-Italian–Bruno.  He serves a mean Picon Punch,  considered the Western version of the Basque cocktail; a mix of American Picon (Torani), soda water, grenade and brandy, with a lemon twist.  But you don’t have to go all the way to Gerlach, Nevada, you can find the Picon Punch at any Basque restaurant and it’s my experience that each has its own twist.  

Picon Punch

Although we won’t push the Picon Punch on our 8 year old, we will savor the slower pace reflected in the Basque peoples living style.  The idea of building stronger bonds as a family experienced through the eyes of a different people is one we are embracing for this journey.  Our plan is to engross ourselves in the culture to any extent we can discover from the history we find in museums, art shows, festivals of music, food, and our local Aspen trail in the high Sierras where the Basque sheepherders roamed their sheep.  It is here they left the messages of their people behind, as carvings on the Aspen trees.  We hope to discover first hand these symbols to share their meanings with others.  I’ve noticed Spring offers a slew of Basque festivals in Northern Nevada.  I’m curious to find out if there is a connection between Spring and a Basque tradition…maybe it’s just a pleasant time of year to have a festival.  We’ll find out and we’re excited to share our discoveries with YOU!

Our preliminary studies give us a little insight to the Basque immigration from Northern Spain and maybe Western France to Latin America.  They came to discover a new life.  We are not sure yet as to why they left their homeland, but hints of political furos, regional law, suggest a distinction between Basque people–Spanish and French.  The Spanish region did not appreciate the French rule as it denied them some of their cultural freedoms; i.e., their native language Euskera.  Once in Latin America, they established themselves as sheepherders and with new world skills learned from the natives, a natural progression North landed them in the southern part of the United States.  The Old West certainly held Basque characters as they traveled the Nevada Gold Rush Trail along with others who came to dig for gold and strike it rich.  However, the Basque had an innovative purpose for following the Gold Rush Trail–to raise sheep and feed mining camps.

Holland Ranch, Elko NV

We invite you to experience with us the Basque culture and how they evolved with American society, while maintaining some of their old world traditions.  Our goal is to discover and share.  Your invitation is to do the same.  I have written a guide for Basque Studies that can be used by anyone in any state.  It can be a homeschool journey, an enrichment experience, or simply be a spectator as we report our discoveries on-line at Home Grown Hub’s blog @ www.homegrownhub.org Social Studies.  Our local group of homeschooling families are participating in our local expeditions and plan to report via pictures, self produced videos posted to YouTube, and written descriptions via blog.  

Here’s a list of states we have learned the Basque people migrated through and established themselves:  California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Idaho.  This is may not be a complete list, but it suggests the Basque migrated throughout the North West possibly due to the vast land for herding and feeding their sheep and created businesses.

If you live in one of these states and want to use our Basque Studies guide to explore and share, please join us at www.homegrownhub.org at our Social Studies link as of April 16, 2012; currently Jargonsmith’s Home Grown Hub at www.jargonsmith.com until our launch April 16th.  Feel free to contact me direct at sabrinagentner@me.com.

Hope you join us…
Happy Homeschooling,
Sabrina Albrecht
Mom, Educator at Home

Picture of Holland Ranch, Elko, NV is from Sheep Herders of Northern Nevada, University of Digital Conservancy