The other day I was re-telling a story to Jasmine and Jill about my reluctance to enter Berkeley's Cheese Board for the first time - last year. I hadn't been there, didn't know the set up or how to ask for cheese, I was sure that everyone was the cheese expert I longed to be and would judge me as such.
I had a nervous belly before I went in for the first time. And the fifth.
Living in Paris now, I laugh at this story - my worst fear of someone laughing in my face has happened, a couple of times, and thankfully I don't always understand what they're saying! I would take the Cheese Board any day. But this asking, the language, the wanting to know what's best and eat what's freshest and drink the right thing - all very stressful again when we went to San Sebastian this weekend, except they smiled more at our Spanish than I get in an average day at my French.
No Basque attempted, but we did manage to order the olives above while we sat over-looking the clear blue bay and drinking txakoli, a local drink that Liam just pointed to in a magazine that I had. I don't know if it was the sun, but something about it became a little less stressful - although then I looked around and everyone else was drinking something red that looked like sangria but came in a bottle and I was overwhelmed with the options.
Our favorite finds on our trip were the pinxtos of olive/anchovy/hot pepper on a stick, some fried cheese that looked like a plantain and some ham cut from a leg above us that Liam enjoyed in a bocadillo.
On the drive from San Sebastian to Bordeaux, we stopped at a boulangerie to get a gateau basque creme which rounded out our train ride picnic of basque cheeses, piment confiture, a bread shaped like a cinnamon roll but oiled with olive, and a nougat filled with spicy pepper as well.
We bought these on the French side though, slightly side-stepping the language worries, but I let Liam do that.