Foodies around the world hold Spanish cuisine on a pedestal, and it’s no wonder why: the country is home to some of the best restaurants, chefs, wines, and preparations in the culinary lexicon. In Aritz Galarza’s latest doc, the food-centric filmmaker explores Biscayne sauce (so named for his hometown of Bizkaina) and the deep-seeded meaning it has for both the Basque country and Spanish cooking at large.
Growing up, did food play a pretty big role in your household?
As in many other families in the Basque Country, gastronomy is the meeting point of all the important events in our lives. Happy moments, family celebrations, between friends — all of them are celebrated around a table. My family is also a good example of this if we take into account that my mom and dad had owned a restaurant named Aritz in the ‘80s. I suppose that a restaurant with my name could be a good reason to justify my passion.
What sparked your interest in Biscayne sauce?
Celebrations in Bizkaina are directly in contact with food and especially with some traditional recipes. For example, on Christmas Eve it is very common to eat snails with biscayne sauce, one of my favorite preparations with Bizkaina. This makes this sauce very special for Basque families. [And then there’s] the mystery of why a sauce takes the name of a region. The last one was good enough reason to a start a documentary, in my opinion.
Spain’s culinary traditions are world famous. What is it about Basque food that makes it so special?
I think that Basque gastronomy has a lot of particularities that makes it unique in the world, and this could be because of Basque country’s geography. We have a privileged location that provides us the best products from the sea, the best meat from the farms, and also the best vegetables of the countryside. Having all of this high-quality product has caused the region to develop a particular culture of respect for the product. We’re always looking to the most fresh sensations in the way of cooking them, and trying to show the purest flavor without disturbing the dinner guest.
For example, the way we cook fish is closer to the Japanese way of working with it than some other cookeries. We could say that we warm up the fish more than cooking it. We like it almost crude. This is cultural and this is because we have always had fresh fish at our tables.
Why do you think food and cooking makes compelling entertainment?
I think that food and cooking, like many other cultural facets, are interesting for many audiences. Cooking has an interactive [element] that many other subjects don’t: Taste. This puts the spectator in a starring role. Another reason could be that food is a thing everybody deals with, a daily necessity everyone has. Each of us has our favorite and most hated dishes, and this builds a particular opinion of the subject and makes it interesting.
Do you think that our infatuation with food media is a fad?
It could be more global nowadays, but I think that in TV it has always has it’s place. It’s true that in the last few years of the documentary production interest in this subject has increased, but I don’t think it is a fad. I say this because I think that never before have people been so well informed and interested in everything involving food and feeding.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
I have tried to transmit that Bizkaina, Biscayne sauce, that in Spanish could be translated as “Biscayne way,” is more than a sauce. It is the essence that represents the way people from Bizkaia see gastronomy, products, and the work behind them. It is our best way to present our region to the world using our traditional gastronomy.
Check the latest schedule here.