Adventure, Camino de Santiago, Chocolate, Food, Travel

How Much Can I Eat?

One of the more colorful versions of "ensalad mixta"

One of the more colorful versions of ensalada mixta

The Camino is about walking.  And food.  Without food, there is no fuel for walking.  Looking over my daily expenses, the overwhelming majority is food and drink.  The price of a bed and a hot shower, by comparison, is relatively low.  When I was walking with the Italian teenager, we agreed that trying to save money by cutting back on food while on the Camino is a bad idea.

To cater to walkers, some restaurants offer the Pilgrim Menu, a three course meal, including wine or water, priced between 8 and 12 Euros (the cost of a single dish can easily run that much, or more).   As one American couple I met commented, the Pilgrim Menu is like the “early bird special”: limited and economical offerings, nothing fancy, served before prime dinner hours.  In Spain, they eat at 9pm, about an hour before the albergues turn out the lights.  When I heard that, I felt a bit dispirited, as if the Spanish restaurants were serving us their most banal dishes.  And I wondered why a bottle of water was considered equivalent to a bottle of wine.  And it bugged me that the “dessert” course is often anticlimactic: yogurt (served in the plastic container), or ice cream (from a store, wrapped in foil), or a single piece of fruit.

Since not all albergues have kitchens where one can prepare a meal, and since I don´t have the energy to even think about making hearty food after a day outdoors (and not all villages have a market),  I´ve decided to appreciate the Pilgrim Menu when offered and to remind myself that “two out of three ain’t bad”;  usually, two of the three courses are satisfying.  Sometimes, they are very good.  Sometimes, I´m offered what Americans would consider a “real” dessert: homemade apple tart, profiteroles, tiramisu, rice pudding.

Lately, I’ve had some pleasant surprises, considering that as a non-meat eater, my choices are limited in this porcine-oriented culinary culture.  A few nights ago I had a rich fish, potato and rice soup as a first course, grilled fish and potatoes for the second course, and a finale of flan (served on a plate, but not house made).   Today I decided to eat my large meal mid-day; after a first course of scrambled eggs with asparagus, the waiter presented me with a beautifully grilled trout, french fries and salad.  Dessert was a local pudding;  I washed it all down with a liter of bottled water.   And this was after a breakfast of toast with butter and jam, and a mid-morning snack of bread, cheese, a hard boiled egg (courtesy of another Pilgrim) and chocolate.

I continued walking to the next village, thinking I was done eating for the day.  But the proprietress of the albergue I´m staying in a few kilometers outside of Astorga told me she was making pasta with zucchini.  Did I want some?

The smell of garlic wafted from the kitchen.

Sure, I said, realizing that there was still room for more.

If tomorrow is like every other day so far on the Camino, I will wake up hungry.

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About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais trainee, and explorer of internal and external landscapes.

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