Pintxos – Memories of summer
When I first visited, almost a decade ago, I had no idea what a great culinary centre this Basque city was. The informal tradition of eating ‘Pintos’ whilst catching up with friends was such a local ritual that it was an easy habit to adopt along with enjoying the charm of the Belle Epoche Architecture of the Old town. Everything about this place was idyllic.
Pinxtos are local snacks usually held together by a ‘spike’ or literally translated as a ‘thorn’. Quite often fish, meats or cheeses are pinned together on some pieces of bread to make an appetiser like snack. All the local bars take their presentation of Pinxtos very seriously and often locals and tourists alike visit bars on a Pinxtos tour sampling the finest of them all.
One memory that I’ll never forget is the ordering of a dish called ‘solomillo’ from a popular corner bar called Gandarias Jatetxea, I was waiting in line to order, (it was an incredibly busy place, where hardly any English was spoken) I heard local, after local order this dish and became increasingly curious at what this mystery dish was about. I was in total suspense until it arrived. Beautifully presented on a black slate, this deliciously cooked medium rare sirloin steak was a melt in the mouth perfection piece. Like little art works, these tapas dishes have grown in popularity even outside of Spain.
I also found another tradition rich in Basque culture are the existence of over 100 ‘Gastronomy clubs’. These are secret societies (usually men, although some allow women now) where members gather to cook and use the finest ingredients to experiment and create dishes, whilst socializing in a familiar setting. It is usually very hard to attend one of these clubs unless one is invited by a member. Memberships are often handed down from father to son and clubs have waiting lists for them. There is something in this that is so special. Maybe it’s how the locals share this joint passion for fine food and are open to collaborating ideas. Food creativity is celebrated here. No wonder great food is produced.
And the proof is in its credentials, with more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world, San Sebastian takes its culinary excellence to another level and has launched a dedicated degree to gastronomy putting this education at the same ranks as Law or Medicine.
Next time I gather with friends whilst cooking a meal and sharing ideas, I shall remember that eating is everyone’s business, but eating well is a serious business indeed.
Until next time….
Yuki Solle, Business Development