Step into one of Basque Country’s secretive gastronomic clubs and you will often hear talk of the local soccer team over a glass of artisanal wine alongside a delicately prepared blood sausage. These gastronomic clubs are quite exclusive – under 75 members with decade-long waitlists, hefty admission fees, with memberships traditionally only passed from father to son.
One thing you will not be seeing, however, is women. Started in the 1870’s in San Sebastian as a mere watering hole, these clubs were created as a way for men to escape the matriarchy-based society during the Industrial Era that later evolved into the culinary cults that they are today. About twenty years ago, women began being allowed as guests on certain days, usually weekends, but they are never admitted as members.
But at the center of these establishments is the cooking itself. Deep within undisclosed locations, often private kitchens or closed restaurants the men gather and prepare feasts of epic proportions. Ample portions of dishes ranging from sardines and mackerel to blood sausage and carpaccio balls. Often frequented by members that include 3-Michelin star chefs, it is no wonder that gastronomic clubs like Sociedad in San Sebastian and Uri-Zarra in Bilbao have managed to earn the envy of all who learn about them.
On a recent trip to Spain, Chef Bollo and his father visited Lagun Garbiak. Some of the images were taken by Bollo’s wife (who was careful not to enter the kitchen):
Discussing with dad what veggies to buy
Only in Basque Country, can you find this spectacular red rock fish, called cabracho.
An old bottle opener used in the gastronomic club
(Reserved for Members)
Txuleta vasca – Basque steak. Also offered at Salinas