As we walked down a small side street on our regular Wednesday morning walk around the old town center, I wondered what we would talk about today and what I would see and learn. Fermín said ‘Oh, let’s stop in here for a minute’ as he ducked into a small open door with the plaque displaying the name ‘The Becada’ on the outside wall. As I followed him in, I saw many people inside hustling around and I wondered what in the world this place was?! Fermín explained that this was a Gastronomic Society, and still quite confused at what that meant, followed him into the first room. Fermín introduced himself to what I thought was the staff of maybe something like a fancy restaurant as they quickly set tables with white tablecloths. I was still completely confused at what this place was and what we were doing there. Fermín explained to a couple of people that he had a good friend that belonged to the society and asked if he was there. They informed us that his friend was not there at the moment, but a 78 year old man stepped forward and said ‘Well, I’m not busy. I can show you around if you’d like!’ I, of course, was very eager to figure out what this place was all about and excited that this nice old man was going to take the time to show us around. As he a started to explain the history of The Becada, it became very clear what this place was…well sort of.

A gastronomic society is a place that a group of people belong, the Becada has 80 members, where they go to cook, enjoy food, and spend time with friends. Our guide explained to us that the Becada was started in 1941 and at that time women were not allowed. Kind of ironic that women wouldn’t be allowed in a place where cooking was the main activity, I thought! As we toured, our guide showed us the pantry where the foods are kept and showed us how the system of selecting and paying for items worked. Still confused?! Yeah I was a bit too…

Ok so here an is example, as I lived it. As we entered into the fourth kitchen on the 3rd floor, there was a man there preparing a meal to die for, the mouthwatering aromas alone were amazing! He was cooking up a very typical Riojan dish, Caparrones (pinto bean and chorizo stew of some sort), and for the second course, baked lamb. Yuumm! He had just finished cooking up some green peppers and was eager to know who we were. As Fermín explained that I was from the States and he was showing me around Logroño, the man immediately asked if I would like to try a pepper. Never wanting to miss an experience, I accepted, and he began, then and there, peeling a pepper just for me. As he did this, our guide grabbed a fresh baguette and ripped off a hunk for me to pair with my pepper. As I ate, he asked me if it was spicy and when I responded ‘yes’, which by the way was quite surprising because there really aren’t a lot of spicy things I have found so far in Spain, he proceeded to pop open a new bottle of Riojan wine to ease the burn. What fantastic hospitality!!

As I finished up my pepper the man explained that he was a retired chef and every Wednesday he prepares a meal for himself and 20 of his closest friends here at The Becada. Here’s how it works. If you’re a member, your can reserve one of the four kitchens, any day of the week and at any time of the day. You come and prepare your meal for your friends, your invites don’t have to be members, and you decide what meal you will have, what wine you will drink, and what sides, spices, and extras you might need. You go to the pantry and pick out everything you need and get to cooking. You then mark everything down, all the food and drink that you and your friends have consumed, the computer adds it up and you pay your bill. No waitresses, no staff, and no shopping, just you and your friends. Our guide told us that just the night before one of the younger members had been there until 2am watching a big soccer match with his friends over a lovely meal that they had prepared all together. Interesting, huh?!

I think this was a bit hard for me to understand in the beginning because I have never seen anything like this. It was a whole new idea, but I love it! (minus the whole no women thing) haha! What a good idea, especially here, where it is nearly impossible to fit 20 people in your house. Instead, invite them here, use a state-of-the-art kitchen, and leave the mess behind! I’m thinking I need to get one of these started in the States, yes?!