[Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles about the foodways of the Basque immigrants who settled in the West and Northwest, including Boise, ID, whose population of 16,000 is the highest of anywhere in the US.]
Tony Eiguren spins his paella, which he makes outdoors every Wednesday and Friday at the Basque Market in downtown Boise, ID. A dozen women, who report they are with an AARP tour group, eye the paella, hard. A rumor has traveled among them that The Basque Market sometimes run out of paella, and they are reluctant to let it out of their sight, though it is still 15 minutes from being finished.
Eiguren, who co-owns the Market with wife Tara, manages to convince these women there will be enough for all, and they shuffle inside and check out the pinxtos bar and wait to order a glass of wine until someone else does it first.
The Basque Market makes an open-air paella twice weekly, a hotly anticipated event that frequently has more hungry customers than it does soccorat, the prized crunchy rice that forms on the bottom of the wide, shallow pan. From Food Republic, I learn the word comes from the Spanish word soccorar, ‘to singe’. The market is part of the downtown “Basque Block,” where you can get a pretty quick introduction to the food, wines, ciders and lore of the Basque.
The week I was in Boise there was also a “first Thursdays” paella that tends to be non-traditional (American cheeseburger with tater tots!) and Tony seems slightly embarrassed when I take this paella’s picture, but I think it looks like a lot of fun.
Paella was born in Valencia, Spain, a coastal city south and east of the Basque region, which is mostly in north central Spain, but stretches across the Pyrenees to enfold some of the deliciousness of southwest France.
It was the Moorish conquest that brought rice to Spain around 711 A.D., which is why the Spanish word for rice, arroz, is derived from Arabic and not Catalan. The Moors also brought saffron, which colors and perfumes paella.
Though it isn’t Basque, paella is decidedly Spanish and undeniably popular. On offer inside the restaurant are a lot of fresh and mostly traditional small bites that the Basques call pinxtos and elsewhere in Spain are called tapas. Jose, one of the management team, took us on a tour:
The “Market” side of the Basque Market certainly does lend an appreciation for the role of chorizo in Basque foodways. I took two photos and both are completely full of iterations of these spicy and garlicky pork sausage. I used one of them, chistorra, in my panini press brunch.