My old back garden inside the sandstone town walls of the magical Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port for a brief moment in time.
It was Summer in the foothills of the Pyrenees, so in the morning I would climb atop the walls and walk the perimeter of town, before stopping by to see my friend Bakar for a glass of Izarra, and a bit of his famous ham.
Bakar and his family were a few of the first to help save the Pie Noir du Pays Basque, a breed of pig native to the Basque Country. Although common throughout the 20th century, in the Eighties there were less than one hundred sows remaining. Now farmers like Bakar are raising them again throughout the region. He told me that they grow much slower, and produce a larger amount of fat compared to the standard breeds. Because of that, commercial farms won’t mess with them. Which means that these farmers are the only ones keeping the breed going. It also means that you’ll find amazing cured hams, like Bayonne ham, all throughout the communes of the French and Spanish Basque Country.
And Bakar’s hams, pates, and smoked hocks were the talk of the whole region. Hell, he was the reason why I took two trains and three separate buses to get to SJPdP. Throughout the day, friends and strangers would stop by his shop to taste his goods, and chat about that famous pig.
It’s funny, in Euskara, Bakar means “alone”... But I rarely ever saw him by his lonesome. Instead, Bakar was always shaking hands and kissing cheeks. Except for every morning when we would pull up a chair on the street before opening his doors, and talk about the history of his commune, and the people of his town... Oh, and to feast on the ham and sip the herbal Izarra, of course!
#saintjeanpieddeport #frenchbasquecountry #pienoirdupaysbasque