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  4. The Culinary Culture of Bilbao, Basque Autonomous Community

2017 Vol.3
The Culinary Culture of Bilbao, Basque Autonomous Community

A Creative City Reconstructing Its Cultural Identity


This paper analyzes the culinary culture of Bilbao, the central city of the Basque Autonomous Community in Spain. Bilbao is designated as a Creative City of Design of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and is well known for the architectural design of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao as well as other buildings. The city also has a highly sophisticated culinary culture. The highly rated food and culinary culture of Bilbao and the Basque region can be attributed to five factors closely linked with local identity: (1) cod dishes as a symbol of freedom and independence, (2) gastronomic societies (sociedades gastronomicas), (3) poteo and pinchos , which contributed to rising Basque nationalism, (4) nueva cocina vasca as a form of anti-authoritarianism, and (5) freely available recipes and molecular gastronomy. In Japan, tourism promotion based on food has been discussed at the national and regional levels, and food tourism is expected to play a potential enormous role in future inbound tourism. However, as this case study of the Basque region and Bilbao reveals, the mere presence of delicious foods and dishes is not enough for food-based regional revitalization. It is essential that the livelihoods of the locals in the food industry (i.e., the culinary culture) are closely related to local identity, and that the culture is explained and presented to tourists in an easy-to-understand manner.