I have been asked about food. I confess that much of my experience to date has been “pedestrian”, appropriately for a walking pilgrim, rather than “gourmet”.
Firstly, I have never eaten so much bread in my life. Bread for breakfast, bread for lunch, bread with the evening meal. I am learning to change that practice.
Secondly, I have never eaten so many potato chips, which seem to be mandatory with every main meal. But I learned that I could ask for ensalada (salad) as an alternative, which I find lighter and healthier.
My major difficulty is language. Because I don’t have Spanish, I often can’t read the menu. I have tried Google translate at times, which has been very helpful. At other times, I have taken the waiter’s suggestions, allowing myself to be surprised. Sometime I have made choices, only to be surprised when something different arrives from what I had expected! I had forgotten the few words I had learned from Google!! However, I am learning the basics of the menu, and managing to get by.
Another difficulty is timing. The Spaniards often offer a menu del dias (day’s menu), which is a basic menu of three dishes: a choice of four or so for an entree, a similar number of choices for a main, and a postres (afterwards), along with a drink. This menu is usually relatively cheap, 8 – 10 Euros. However, it is usually available from mid-morning till late afternoon, but may not be available in the evenings. Kitchens in restaurants close from around 4.00pm, and there are no meals available until around 8.30pm. The Spanish eat very late.
However, these timings don’t quite fit the pilgrim routine. I might not arrive into a town until the afternoon. By the time I have showered and done laundry, sometimes kitchens are closed. But if I wait till 8.00pm or 8.30pm, that is often the time that Mass is on in the local church, and I like to attend Mass when I can. I don’t like to have meals after 8.30 Mass, as it makes for a very late night! Not to mention, sleeping with a full stomach.
So my usual walking day might be something like this:
1. In the morning, before I set out (or in the first village/town I come to), I will go to a bar and have cafe con leche (milk coffee) and tostado con mermelada (toasted bread roll with jam). However, sometimes bars are not open on holidays, so I might miss out altogether, or have an apple or roll or something I have bought the day before.
2. For lunch, if I am still walking, when passing through a village, I might pick up something at the bar as above. Otherwise, I might just have an apple or a banana with a snack (sandwich, biscuit, piece of cake) that I had bought in preparation the day before.
If I have arrived at a destination early in the afternoon and showered and done laundry, then I might find a restaurant and have the menu del dias. As I have said, because of language, my choices are a bit “pot luck”!! A criterion for a restaurant is free wifi, as I will often write the blog at this time.
In some places, I also try to have a look around the town, particularly if the guide book makes a recommendation, so this might delay my meal, or I might have my meal after doing the touring.
3. In the evenings, if I have had menu del dias at lunch, I won’t have much at all, a snack e.g. a ham and cheese bread roll.
However, if I haven’t had any substantial meal during the day, I will have the menu del dias when I can in the evening.
If there is a Mass on in the local parish church which I hope to attend, and there is no menu del dias available in the late afternoon/early evening, I might just settle for a snack instead, as above.
In the last couple of albergues/hostals where I have stayed, the evening meal has been included in the package, and sometimes the simple breakfast too. So that does make life simpler.
Here’s one day (in Grimaldo) where I arrived in the early afternoon, did the personal hygiene and laundry, and was able to strike lucky with my choices for the menu del dias:
I originally ordered salad for entree, but when I came to the main dish I remembered and ordered salad instead of potato chips. So I changed my entree to something that included ham and sausage. Thought I couldn’t go wrong there, and I was right!
My main was lamb with salad;
And a very substantial serve of lamb it was too!
The postres (afters) are often quite uninteresting, sometimes just a piece of fruit, or a packaged ice-cream on a stick, or a pre-packaged flan or dessert. On this occasion I chose pudding:
I finished off with a milk coffee:
You may have noticed that I did not have wine. I had a bottle of water instead. During my walking, re-hydration takes priority over gustation!!! I can finish off a one and half litre bottle of water without any trouble. I would find doing the same amount of hydration with wine both expensive and distinctly lacking in sobriety!!!
In the early days on the Mozarabe, I became accustomed to the one and half litre bottles of water being put on the table. I have noticed on the Via de la Plata, they tend to be half litre bottles of water. These make me feel distinctly short-changed! So if I remember, I ask for the agua grande (large water).
The above meal in Grimaldo, the coffee and possibly the large water were extras, came to 12.70 Euros. Normally the menu del dias there was 10 Euros.
I have occasionally had red wine with meals, especially shared meals with others, and find the wine very tasty!
At the end of a day’s walk, I sometimes have a beer.
And if the above pictures and story have lost me some or all of your sympathy, please remember the mornings and middays when I have very little, or the evenings when time and other constraints mean that I have to settle for a snack rather than a proper meal.
I am not fading away on what I am eating, but I am surely burning a lot up in my walking!!!