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Smithsonian Folklife Festival: A Wonderful Activity

Basque Region at Folklife Festival

Basque Region at Folklife Festival

On Thursday we took a day trip into the nation’s capitol, where we first stopped at the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival to experience and learn about the Basque region of Spain. This region of northern Spain  is an autonomous region where the inhabitant speak Spanish and many speak the more unusual Basque language. This region also features gastronomic cuisines that focus on seafood. Art is also a featured. It all made me interested in visiting this phenomenal region of Spain.

The Basque Folklife  event was set up in numerous white tents with demonstrations of food, art and crafts. The event is staged between the Washington Monument and the US Capitol building. Everyone is encouraged to attend the festival. Numerous activities are included for children.

Basque Cuisine Demonstration

Basque Cuisine Demonstration

We attended the Albacore Tuna and Anchovies demonstration in the food tent. Gourmet appetizers were easily prepared as viewers watched. It all made us want to return home and create some of these luscious looking hors d’oeuvres. They suggested wine pairing with the appetizers was  Txakoli, a Basque wine. (According to a Basque Country Tourism website, “It (Txakoli) is a young, fruity, slightly sparkling white wine with low acidity made from grapes grown on the mountain sides near the sea under the gentle breeze of the Cantabrian Sea.”

The first appetizer was created on a skewer.

1.Place an olive on the skewer
2. Add an anchovy
3. Add a pickled pepper
4. Add another olive.
5. Finish by putting a tomato sauce on the bottom.
They also suggested a pickle could be placed on the skewer.

Later we stopped at the visual arts tent that displayed a large canvas mural. The artist is said to focus on the Basque environment. The particular art piece displayed was an amazing demonstration of what can be created using only various shades of blue.

Another tent housed a generational family of sheepherders and cheesemakers.

At another area, a stage was set up for demonstrations that including dancing that created a story. Later as we past by, a lifting weights demonstration was taking place.

Basque Weaving Demonstration

Basque Weaving Demonstration

A demonstration of Basque weaving was delightful. An interpreter quickly asked the weaver any questions and the accomplished weaver seemed happy to stop and talk to us. I was curious as to how long it would take for her to create one of the linens that was displayed. Answer: seven or eight hours but all of that depended on many factors.

Salt lovers will be interested in the salt information that was provided. According to the details this particular salt is three times saltier than sea salt.

Shipbuilding was also demonstrated. We watched as a woodworker used a hand lathe and chisel to carve a round-shaped pole.

One of the most fascinating demonstrations was an artisan who chisels stone. His ornate artwork is incredible. He also had an interpreter who told us that the chisel the artist was working with had a diamond tip.

Before we left the Basque tent area, we stopped for a gelato described as Basque cherry. The day was warm and this cherry gelato was a wonderful reprieve from the heat. The cold treat offered strong notes of cherry and sweetness.

Later we crossed the area to visit the sounds of California region. For us the most fascinating item was the demonstration of mask making. The skilled artisan used a hammer and chisel to form the mask. We watched as he began forming the facial features of a man. Nearby another worker was sanding a goats horn which would eventually be fastened to a mask.

We could have stayed longer at the Smithsonian’s Folklife festival but we needed to continue on to the Basque wine tasting taking place at the Renaissance Hotel.

Interested in learning about the Basque region and its culture? The Smithsonian’s Folktale Festival continues this weekend and next.


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