Pintxos | the Gildas

Gilda is said to have been the first true pintxo, invented in 1946, the same year that Gilda, the classic film noir starring Rita Hayworth, was released.

Joaquín Aranburu, a regular at bar Casa Vallés in Donostia-San Sebastián, had the habit to combine the available snacks by piercing them with a pintxo (timber skewer). He was also one of the few who traveled to France to see the film, banned in Spain under Franco’s rule. Oh his return, he is said to have started to mix of olives, guindillas de Ibarra (peppers from the Basque region of Gipuzkoa) and salty Cantabrian anchovies, to be eaten in a single bite – and, apparently, the other customers liked the combination, so Casa Vallés began to serve it regularly at the bar.

Aranburu decided to call his invention Gilda, as it was green, salty and slightly spicy, just like the film’s title character – considering the secondary meaning of the words, verde, salado y picante would also translate as ‘little pervert, witty and spicy’.

Gildas Pintxos at Casa Valles
They say that you need to eat a gilda at once, so that you can really enjoy all the flavors and aromas: that of the pickled, slightly spicy pepper, of the salted anchovies and of the soft, green Manzanilla olives.

Still, how did a snack came to be named after a sex symbol? And why were exactly these ingredients so easy to be found? Well, if we take a look at these times and check local sources, we see that most bars, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, would only set out a few tins of olives, some tuna, anchovies, cheese, and maybe have a chorizo hanging on the wall from a peg.

The food available during the week was simple: pickled, cured or packed in oil so that it wouldn’t go bad without refrigeration.

And, with the exception of a plate of olives, offered to regulars, or some ready to eat mixes of the above products, pierced with a small skewer to make a small and simple pintxo, relatively little food was consumed in bars during the week.

Then, the bars were, back then, frequented by men, who would come every day for a few glasses of wine and a chat. In the Basque matriarchal society, men’s role was to be breadwinner and hand over everything to the wife who administered the household economy. Still, they had a sum for a few glasses of wine, to drink in the company of their friends, until dinner time with their family.

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