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Until the mid 20th century, water from nearby sources, iturriko ura, was what families usually drank at everyday meals. They tried to make sure that the water was “fresh”, in other words, recently brought from the spring or the fountain.
Before homes had running water, collecting water for lunch or dinner was usually a chore of the children and younger members of the family, who would take containers to a nearby spring or the village fountain. Those places would therefore become places to meet up every day.
During the meal, the people at the table drank from the same pitcher, pitxarra, yarroa, or from the botijo (typical earthenware drinking jug), potixe, which had been used to bring the water from the source.
Other recipients used to collect the water were pails (Carranza-B and Monreal-N), the ferreta and flagons, pegarra (Northern Basque Country within France), or cauldrons and canteens. In some places such as Zeanuri (B), people would worry about using recipients, such as the botijo, where they could not see what they contained.
In Mélida (N), when the men walked to the Bardena badlands, the botijo, rallo, was usually used to transport their water. When they would be away from many days, they also took earthenware jars filled with water with vinegar and sugar.
The high esteem for the water from certain local springs was a constant in popular lore in the past. It was a mark of honour, particularly when dealing with outsiders, if the springs produced “iron”, urgorri or metalure, or "lime", hatxure, water.
Hard water springs, ur gordin, ur gogor, were not highly appreciated. Any water that had not spent sufficient time underground also fell into that category. The mostly highly valued springs were those were the water came out at a constant temperature: cool in summer and not cold in winter.
As will be discussed later, wine was only drunk as a treat on special occasions until the mid 20th century. In any event, only men drank wine with ordinary meals. Women and children usually drank water or, occasionally, a little wine watered down with water. Later or, soda water or Gaseosa lemonade would be mixed with the wine.
Here are two very widespread of the many popular beliefs about drinking water: It is unhealthy to drink chilled water when you are stifled or sweating; drinking water after eating fruit such as cherries or plums causes diarrhoea.
It was very common for a long time to say “Jesus!” before drinking water. That was mainly said when drinking between meals.
Wine has been and continues to be the most usual alcoholic beverage drunk both at home and in publish establishments, and outstrips any other.
As is well known, there are three types of table wine, which are red, white and claret. Consumption is greatest of the first, with the second usually drunk as an aperitif or served with fish as it what people crave in that case.
Depending on the region in question, there are usually preferences to drink different types of wine as regards its alcohol content, taste, acidity, and other specific characteristics that the drinkers know how to appreciate. Nevertheless, a change in tastes has been seen in recent decades: from full-bodied wines with a high alcohol content (15-16º) to lighter ones that are smooth on the palate and with lower alcohol contents (12-13º). This is just a general overview of consumption and does not enter into the details that the great wine tasters could provide regarding whether one or another goes best with different dishes.
Txakolina. Txakoli wine
Compared to table wine, Txakoli wine has medium alcohol content and great acidity.
These two properties are mainly due to the climate characteristics of the regions where the vines used to make this wine are grown, where there is less sunlight and more humidity.
Around 100 or 200 years ago, when Txakoli was made in many more locations than today, it was mainly drunk at home. Nowadays, it is nearly exclusively drunk as an aperitif at bars and at gastronomic societies.
At the farmsteads, no wine was bought as everyday supplies while the Txakoli was available.
There were farmsteads in some locations which sold part of their wine production, but at the homestead itself, in the same way as a cider house. They were called txakoliña. This practice still continues at several farmsteads.
Those establishments did not open all at the same time in the same village, but one after another as the wine ran out. Each one of them remained opened for around two weeks, with the first opening its doors on around St. Joseph’s Day, in spring.
A bay branch was placed on the farmstead’s gate or on a post in front of it to show that the txakolin was open. A large table with long benches for the drinkers to sit on was set up in the porch.
Cider is a refreshing drink with a low alcohol content, which is produced by fermenting apple juice. It is best drunk chilled but not cold.
In the same way as with Txakoli wine, the majority of farmhouses that used to make cider did so for their own consumption. However, each village would have one or more farmsteads, known as cider houses, sagardotegia, that would open their doors to the local residents who wanted to try the cider, along with a stew or meal cooked by the etxekoandre (farmer’s wife).
During the first third of the 20th century, the cider houses were famous and kept the art of bersolarismo (traditional improvised poetry telling) alive to a great extent. People could also play skittles at most of the cider houses.
Cider was mainly drunk in the northern part of the Basque Country, including all the valleys of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Iparralde, and the northern part of Álava and the northwest of Navarra.
Up until around fifty years ago, spirits were drunk in two very different ways. One was to drink them to help digest a large and calorie-rich meal, which usually occurred at a handful of celebrations a year, and therefore it was very unusual to drink spirits after eating. The other was as a tonic in the morning prior setting off to start work in the fields.