txoko – Basque gastronomic societies
A guide to food in Spain
Txokos are the famed Basque gastronomic societies. The word txoko means “a small place”. The remarkable feature of the txokos is that the members themselves do the shopping and cooking. They range from clubs with just a dozen members up to 200 strong and are formed by people, usually men, from all social classes. In Navarra they are also known as peñas. Politics is traditionally a taboo subject in txokos in this divisive corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
“Gastronomic societies are organisations, almost always of men, who cook and eat together in a communal Txoko (literally ‘corner’). In large cities, the society’s premises can be large and formally organised, but the txoko is frequently a small space owned by a group of friends in smaller towns and suburbs, where food and costs are shared. The first txoko was noted in Donostia in 1870. This unique feature of the Spanish Basque Country enables men to participate in the cooking process and spend time together away from the traditionally formidable matriarchs (etxekoandreak). In recent years, women have been allowed into some clubs.”
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