`No women after 6 p.m.,' says Basque eating society

It's a strange world where women are not allowed in the kitchen -- more so when it happens in a country as ``macho'' as Spain. Members of the all-male gastronomical societies of the Basque country not only bar women from their table, they are also forbidden from doing the cooking or washing up, despite a Spanish law that makes discrimination by sex illegal.

``We operate on the assumption that wherever women are around there is bound to be trouble,'' says Jesus Garc'ia, the secretary of San Sebastian's Gaztelubide Society.

He told Reuters that Gaztelubide, was more liberal than most societies.

``We let women in as guests of members, but they have to leave by six in the evening,'' he said. ``In most societies they wouldn't get past the front door.''

After 6 p.m., members begin arriving with their day's shopping. Many come straight from the wharf of this coastal city carrying shopping bags filled with freshly caught seafood.

The Basque country is also the gourmet mecca of Spain.

``Times are changing,'' Mr. Garc'ia added. ``Who knows, maybe 10 years from now women will be allowed in after 6 p.m.''

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