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Siyona’s family ends a memorable trip to San Sebastian with a delicious Basque meal.

I waved my hands back and forth, waiting for my ruby red nail polish to dry. My mom hurried around the house looking for a hairbrush. “I’ll wait outside,’’ my dad yelled, grabbing the apartment keys. I ran into the bathroom and frantically brushed my hair and sprayed detangler. I climbed down two steps at a time and burst outside into the San Sebastian daylight. We waited for our wonderful hosts, Inaki and his family, who were natives of San Sebastian and had become good friends. They were picking us up to go to arestaurant located in asmall village about twenty minutes away from town. Our friends had raved about the restaurant, and I was really looking forward to having a good meal after a whole day of being a dolphin—swimming, surfing, swimming!

It was hot and humid outside, and the air was hanging on me. I worried that sweat beads forming on my back might soon turn into a waterfall and soak my pink cotton dress. We took a quick selfie, and I was grateful that our friends arrived soon. We hurried inside the car. We parked and walked to the restaurant. As we entered, I felt a cold wave and greeted it with a smile. After a minute, my arms were lined with goosebumps and my mom said, “Wow! Look at you. You’re like a little strawberry!”

All the adults had to get the tasting menu, because we were a group of more than six people: Marta, Mikel, their parents Inaki and Elena, and my parents. I felt grown up, as I was allowed to order á la carte from the adults’ menu. I considered the menu and decided on grilled steak and vegetables.

“Have the apple pie. It’s wonderful,” Inaki told me.

“Yes!” Marta agreed. “I’m going to change mine to apple pie too.”

As the server poured wine for the adults, Elena noticed that Marta was shivering and offered to get the jacket she had forgotten in the car. “I’m okay,” Marta said, rubbing her bare arms. The parents sipped on wine while Marta looked up to see if she was sitting underneath the AC vent. Were my goosebumps from cold or excitement? Perhaps both! Slowly and hesitatingly, Elena pulled a scarf from her purse and gave it to Marta, but not without a worried look. “Don’t get it dirty. This is my favorite scarf,” she said. It was thin, silky, and white with dark red and green spots. Marta was known for being a messy eater while Elena was very careful.

I started the first course of olives drenched in a dark green puree by slurping the puree and saving the olives to savor at the end. “Try the olive, it’s magical,” Elena said. The olive burst and melted away the moment I put it in my mouth. I realized that the olives were made of white chocolate.

I looked down to see a black ball appear on my plate. The server started explaining. The moment he said, “squid ink,” Marta pulled the scarf back with concern. The slippery eel and caramelized apples kept escaping my fork as I tried to lift them up to my mouth.

Everybody moved on to their many main courses, while I got my steak. Four strips of pinkish red surrounded by crispy brown edges. On the side was a small blue pot the size of my palm with carrots, mushrooms, and other vegetables. The tender, juicy steak was gone in no time. I felt kind of full, but I really wanted to try the pigeon, which was the last course on the tasting menu. While everyone else worked through their courses, I admired the wooden twisted sculpture on our table and tried to figure out if it was a candle stand. Many of the courses had sauces. Marta was constantly pulling the scarf back and then putting it back on as soon as she was done putting down her fork. When the third course with a red sauce came around, Marta got concerned and immediately took the scarf off. Elena looked at her with a frown.

Inaki teased my mom, “You ate so much bread. We could have bought it from the local bread shop! How will you eat what the chef made?!” When a particularly pretty course came out, we asked our server to take a picture of us to remind us of this wonderful time. Most of the food had local ingredients. Local fish, local vegetables, local meat. I was thinking, that’s good for the planet. We are reducing our carbon footprint. The food was healthy, but the company was even better. We were learning so much about Basque culture.

The conversation was light and we were relaxed. My dad raised his glass: “To friends for life and to a new running habit, only because Inaki shows up at our door at six a.m. daily!”

I added, “And to swimming in the ocean every day, because Elena and Inaki swam with me.” Everyone raised their glass and our laughter tinkled.

Finally, the pigeon arrived. I asked my dad for some, but instead my mom passed me her plate with a look of relief and said, “Thank you, Siyona!” There was a bright red sauce and a piece of grilled meat with dark lines across it. Marta gulped down that course even though she had also had a lot of bread like my mom. I noticed that the scarf was on the chair now.

Betta Fish
Betta Fish

It was time for dessert! First they served cold, cut-up strawberries in wine glasses. Then with steel sprayers they added dollops of steaming whipped cream. “Was it just for show?” we wondered as nobody had expected that the whipped cream would be hot. My taste buds were confused by the contrast between the cold sweet strawberries and the hot cream, and I kept eating spoon after spoon to clear the confusion. I decided that the taste was like sweet snow melting away. Then I got a huge slice of apple pie with cream. Everybody except my mom dug into their dessert. The curved slices of baked apples with cinnamon and sugar were melting in my mouth. I finished my mom’s chocolate cake. We all ordered chamomile tea. I sipped water to stay awake. The tea was served to us in our own little glass pots filled with steaming clear yellow liquid. The tea warmed me up inside and Marta leaned back in her chair sipping the tea slowly.

Our tummies were bursting and our hearts were cheerful. Marta carefully handed Elena her scarf back. Then she noticed something. “What’s that?” she asked Elena.

“Oh”, Elena said softly, her cheeks turning red, “I spilled some sauce on myself in the third course,” as she tried to hide the red stains on her white shirt. We all worried that our long and loud guffaws would make us spill the food we had just had. Luckily for Marta, Elena’s scarf was clean and healthy!