Savour San Sebastian
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
San Sebastian will the be European Capital of Culture for 2016. It beat off challenges from four other splendid locations in Spain and can now prepare for what should be a boom year in the city that has such a rich culinary history.
San Sebastian is located in Basque Country and is a very popular destination for those who like their Spanish food. Not least because San Sebastian has more restaurants, bars and taverns per square mile than any other Spanish city. So there is much to savour in San Sebastian.
It is home to several gastronomic societies (Txokos) located in the old town, the Parte Vieja. Anyone can join a gastronomic society in San Sebastian. Well almost anyone. Women and other "honoured guests" are only welcome in the txoko clubhouses at specific times of the year. This is a man only environment. Where the cooks are men and, for most of the year, the diners are also men. A gastronomic brotherhood.
For centuries these societies have been held up as an example of how seriously cooking is taken by Basques in general, and by the residents of San Sebastian in particular. They like to promote the traditional cooking of the area. The first txoko was set up in 1843. Txooko means 'corner' or 'harbour' and these societies first attracted shipyard workers in their hundreds. It is where they went at the end of a busy working day to drink and eat good, local food.
Today there are hundreds of txokos in Basque country. But being a member is not about wealth or social standing. It is your love of food that matters. You too could become a so called tripazai, or cook in a gastronomic society. But you'll have to wait for the grim reaper to play his card. Any new, young cook on the block wanting to join will have to wait until an older member dies. Each society limits its membership to a certain number. So to join you have to wait for someone to pass on to that big kitchen in the sky.
A txoko has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room and bar. Membership can consist of as few as a dozen members or as many as 200. Members share all the preparation and cooking tasks and responsibilities. Then those who have prepared the food serve it to fellow members and await their verdict.
For the rest of us, the non members, San Sebastian has some splendid public restaurants to enjoy. They serve exquisite food up here. There is inevitably a French influence in the cooking. Sumptuous seafood, magnificent meat dishes and fresh vegetables.
San Sebastian is a great place to sample the best of Spanish food any year. In 2016 it will taste just that little more special.