I’ve never been asked to be a mule before. For you law-abiding citizens, a mule is a person who carries drugs for someone. In this case, I was asked to be a cheese mule. This was not your run-of-the-mill, Whole Foods, Manchego cheese mind you. I was on a quest for Idiazabal, the Basque word for sheep’s milk cheese.
A friend from the San Francisco Bay area with Basque roots salivates when I share my plans of 10 days in Barcelona and San Sebastian, Spain.
“Oh the cheese,” she moans. “You have to bring back the cheese.”
And so my quest for Spanish cheese began.
Cheese from Spain
I was also told to taste the Iberian ham. My Alaskan friend, Kirsten Dixon, a culinary genius and owner of Within The Wild Adventure Company, had recommended that I taste the salt-cured Iberian ham. These acorn fed, free-range piggies are as pampered as the Kobe beef cattle. At roughly $160 per pound, I was keeping my bacon in my pocketbook.
Before our departure to Pamplona, we were lectured on Ernest Hemingway and the significance of the book The Sun Also Rises as it relates to the region of Pamplona and San Sebastian, Spain. Our personable lecturer, Gabriella Ranelli De Aguirre,an ex-patriot and culinary guide steered me to Aitor Lasa, on Calle Aldamar. “I take this cheese to the states with me all the time,” she shares. “They’ll vacuum seal it for you.”
So in between layers of clothes, I dutifully tuck in my shrink wrapped wedges of cheese; my nuggets of gold. I’m bound for my home state of California where our advertisements boast that happy cows make happy cheese. I am one happy camper!
Article and photos by Nancy D. Brown