Situated in Northern Spain, the Basque Country is an autonomous community with passionately preserved cultural traditions, celebrated cuisine and a distinct regional language. Add to that diverse cities such as Bilbao - a juxtaposition of factories and shipyards tucked in alongside modern landmarks - then all of a sudden you could be home, right here, in the North East of England, a skyline bursting with industrial heritage and iconography wrestling for a place amongst the various modern objects of attempted regeneration.
San Sebastian, Spain - 1870 - the first ever 'Txoco' or Sociedades Gastronómicas was established. In Basque, the word Txoco translates as a 'nook' or 'cosy corner'. Like the CIU movement in the UK where Working Men's Clubs became safe spaces to meet, drink, and talk, Txokos became increasingly popular as one of the few places where people could legally meet without state control, speak Basque and sing Basque songs.
Txocos have played a huge role in preserving Basque Cuisine. Traditional dishes that would have otherwise died out have been explored, preserved and evolved with one eye on the past, the other on the future. With a focus on regional ingredients, local knowledge and methods, this has led to not only a refined, culture of gastronomy but also a 'food equality' where ingredients are economically accessible and not socially exclusive.
For growing cities across the world, cultural preservation and an understanding of heritage and history is essential in creating an inclusive sense of identity, belonging and tradition - the sinew between past, present and future. In Italy, this is sometimes called 'The Civilisation of The Table' where all aspects of life weave together such as agriculture, people, politics and community.
Food, unlike anything else, connects us all.
The North East has a rich but unexplored culinary history. A region of raiders and traders, from Viking rule to the Roman Empire, Border Reivers to heavy industry.
Our regional food culture is full of iconic produce and traditional recipes from Craster Kippers to Carlin Peas, Panackelty to Pease Pudding, Saveloys Dips to Stottie Cakes.
These recipes and traditions need to be preserved, celebrated and evolved with issues such as geographic indicators and provenance, explored.
FODA, a new culinary collective, aims to bring the concept of the Txoco to the North East. A gathering place for the like minded, curious and passionate epicureans proud of our diverse regional food culture. An inclusive place to meet, drink, cook and debate.