Cooking in a Gastro-society
Gastronomic societies play an enormously important part in San Sebastián’s social life
Here, members meet in a club complete with kitchen for lunch or dinner, either with other members of the society or with their families and/or friends. This said, gastronomic societies are often much more than simply a meeting place for their members; they organise cultural activities central to the social and leisure aspects of life in the city, particularly forming companies of tamborrada drummers. In fact, most of the adult companies that parade through the streets on San Sebastián Day belong to the gastronomic societies.
When you go to a gastronomic society in San Sebastián (which you can only do on invitation by a member, except on San Sebastián Day), the cooking is usually done by 2 or 3 of the diners who bring along their own food for the purpose (although the basics are generally available in the society kitchen larder). After eating, the costs are calculated and split between everyone eating at the table. These costs include items like the right to use the kitchen and its utensils, a symbolic charge per attendee, and the cost of all products taken from the pantry or cellar. All of the documents and cash to pay the bill are placed in a special box before leaving the society premises.
Given that this is a system based on trust and self-management, gastronomic societies have a very strong family feel to them and tend to be considered by the members and their guests as a place mid-way between their homes and a restaurant. The friendly atmosphere often means that lunches and dinners end with games of cards or singing, either with fellow diners or with people at other tables. Having lunch or dinner at a gastronomic society is just about the closest you’ll ever get to the cultural life in San Sebastián.