There's always something exciting happening in San Sebastián/Donostia. Last week alone, a surfing festival ended, a jazz festival began, beaches were full of sunbathers, streets were (briefly) full of rioters and police...a typical summertime week in this beautiful, slightly crazy city.
On my next to last day there, I had the good fortune to lunch at one of the famous Basque gastronomic societies. My host was Germán Arrien, director of both the local convivium, or branch, of Slow Food, and of one of the largest gastronomic societies, Cofradía Vasca de Gastronomía (roughly translated as the Basque Brotherhood of Gastronomy).
Gastronomic societies are an institution unique to the Basque country, and particularly to San Sebastián. In existence for the last century or so, they are a place where men--until very recently, they were exclusively the domain of men--go to gather to cook, eat, drink and discuss cooking, eating, drinking...oh, and occasionally politics. Germán told me that, typically, even outside of the clubs, Basques spend about half of a conversation discussing epicurean topics, such as where to get the best pintxos or a good recipe for marmitako (a traditional fisherman's stew). If this all sounds too good to you, don't pack up and sell your house just yet--the typical gastronomic society, like the one we visited, has a long waiting list, with spaces only becoming available when a member passes away.