A few weekends ago, Amaia and I went back up to her homeland of Euskadi to celebrate. It is wedding season and so far the gettin’s good. Our friends, Nekane and Aitor, got hitched in Orduña and are now on their lovely honeymoon in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, but before they left they were sure to throw us a big party.
I had never been to a Spanish wedding. Apparently, despite the fact that I just went to a wedding in Spain, I still have not. The cultural and gastronomical explosion I attended was in fact a Basque wedding. And don’t you confuse the two either. When I asked the resident experts on what the difference between the two were, I was greeted by laughter and the unanimous answer: the food.
Here is a quick rundown of the wedding:
14:00-Beer at the bar across from the hotel
14:15-15:30-Cocktail hour and fifteen minutes (open bar, dude!)
20:30-1:30-Dance party (more open bar, dude)
Luckily, I am a professional translator and will enlighten you as to how they do it in the BC.
Plate of traditional Iberian Ham
Micuit pâté with essence of truffle served with pear and pumpkin compote
Traditional consommé with garnish (read: Iberian Ham bitlits, egg bitlits and itty bitty croutons)
Savory leek cannoli filled with langoustines and mushrooms with lobster sauce
Monkfish on a light bed of purée of Porrusalda (traditional Basque vegetable mixture), mushroom tomato vinaigrette with a crunchy prawn skewer
Pineapple mint sorbet (to cleanse the palate and prepare you for the main course, of course.)
Top sirloin steak with candied red peppers, bacon and potato cake with a Rioja reduction
Mille-feuille over hot chocolate and vanilla sauce, served with a crunchy awesome and dark chocolate ice cream
So there you have it. My first 7ish-course dinner, not to mention that, besides the dessert, there was wedding cake. Naturally, after a protein, sugar, carbohydrate rush like that you are going to be rearing to have a go on the dance floor.
Speaking of dance floors, Basque weddings traditionally feature one. Sure, they say that Basque men can’t dance because their femurs are connected directly to their rib cages but that didn’t stop them from wobbling the night away.
Another thing: despite my country being the grand ole inventor of country line dancing, I had never been to any hoedown, hootenanny, shindig or wedding, for that matter, that included this linearly choreographed boogie. So imagine my surprise when the DJ laid down this Billy Ray Cyrus cover. Now imagine the sound of my jaw hitting the floor being drowned out by Mexican Achy Breaky Heart as I bore witness to the most bizarre thing I had ever seen.
Yes. This is exactly what it looks like. Line dancing, not in a barn or otherwise acceptable hoedown dance hall, but in a hotel, in the Basque Country, being danced by people in formal wear, and they all know the steps…
Ok, ok, ok. Coming from the country that gave us the Macarena this shouldn’t be so surprising. I mean, the Spanish dance ethos is borne of kitschy, one-hit-wonder choreography, right? Many people will say, “no” but I am saying, “yes” to support my post. (Sweeping generalizations were always my downfall in Ms. Manchester’s class.) Amaia claims not to know the dance though I have my doubts.
All in all, my most recent cultural experience taught me an interesting lesson: no matter how similar two things are, that doesn’t mean they aren’t completely different. Whether that would be considered a lesson or an aphorism, I really don’t care. All I know is that, yes, the wedding was similar to weddings I have attended in USA; the bride wore white, people dressed up, there was wine, there was dancing… However, there was no “wedding party”, we ate for two whole hours and then had dessert, the grandmother of the bride was still going strong well past midnight and of course that whole line dancing thing.
Despite all of these differences, however, I have to admit that the most beautiful part of the night was what binds most weddings: the coming together of so many guests to celebrate the union of these two wonderful people. Transcending borders, cultures, languages and dance tendencies, the gathering of friends, plus-ones and family on your most special of days is truly universal.
PS For the curious ones out there, ezkontzak is weddings in Euskera, or Basque.