FAQ : To eat


                                                            What is there to eat  

                                     Confraternity of Saint James of South Africa




  What is there to eat?


- No account of the Camino would be complete without mentioning the food.

- Most pilgrims travel on limited budgets and so enjoy the availability of the simple traditional food with plenty of fresh produce and breads.

- Breakfasts generally consist of orange juice, coffee or hot chocolate and croissants, toast, muffins, or churros (a sweet fried dough delicacy) from bakeries or small bars (more like cafeterias than places to consume alcohol) along the way.

- It is advisable to check the day before to see what time bars open, as not all have hours to suit pilgrim departure times.

- Those that prefer a more healthy option generally stock up on yoghurt, muesli, fruit etc to prepare in the refugio before leaving in the morning or to eat somewhere along the trail.


- Locals tend to have cooked lunches, but pilgrims mostly choose bocadillos (crusty rolls) with cheese, chorizo sausage, sardines or smoked ham (jamon) with fresh fruit, or possibly a tortilla (omelette).

- Many bars are closed during siesta time (mostly 13h00 to 15h00), so if you plan to arrive somewhere at around that time, stock up beforehand.

- Picnics in the countryside are always an option when you carry a bit of food with you.


- Other readily available treats are almonds and other nuts, good cheeses and some nice packets of biscuits and chips for snacking.

- The local confectionery shops with their delicious pastries and homemade chocolates are too much to resist, (especially in Astorga - where they also have chocolate factories - and a museum of chocolate!). And of course, in Galicia there is always Santiago Tart (almond tart) for a mid morning boost.


- The evening meal is sometimes a communal affair at the refugio with pilgrims sharing their resources and sociability.

- Some pilgrims choose to cook their own meals such as pasta and salad or cold food.

- If you chose to cook at the refugios, keep it simple as facilities are minimal, and remember that you will either need to leave surplus behind for following pilgrims or carry loads of leftovers.

- Some of the refugios have oil and salt available.

- Many pilgrims take advantage of the special peregrino menus or menu del dia (special of the day) in the local bars.

- The pilgrim menus are good honest food but can be repetitive. It usually consists of plate 1: mixed salad, soup or pasta; plate 2: beef or chicken or pork or fish or lamb chops with chips; plate 3: dessert is usually pre-made and is crème caramel (flan), ice cream or yoghurt.

- Most restaurants offer local specialities and the ever-popular tapas - a variety of delicious appetisers to be enjoyed with the local beer or wine.

- The Spanish tend to eat dinner late - around 21h00 - but many bars are happy to serve famished pilgrims from around 19h00.

- Remember that many restaurants charge separately for items such as bread (which is often brought to the table unsolicited). So check before you eat!


- Pilgrims mostly choose the very acceptable vino de casa, but the excellent red wines of the Rioja province should definitely be sampled if possible.

- One of the special experiences along the way is the stop at the Fuente del Vino (fountain of wine) in Irache, where the local red is available free of charge to pilgrims who pass the winery.

- The beers are great and mostly quite cheap by South African standards - and there were different brews in virtually every town.


- The amount of water and method for carrying it are personal choices.

- However, it is essential to carry water, which can be replenished safely at any drinking fountain in the villages except where you see the sign NON POTABLE .

- Options for water storage include army-style bottles attached to the outside of the pack, simple plastic cooldrink bottles carried in a side pouch or the "Camelbak(tm)" type system often used by cyclists.


- Shopping is very simple. There aren't a lot of big supermarkets, as we know them in SA; mostly little bakeries or corner stores with a small range.

- Other pilgrims and the hospitaleros are generally a good source of information for where to shop - many of the shops are in houses and not immediately obvious to the passer-by.

- Whatever your preferences, you certainly won't starve!


                                                  American Pilgrims FAQs          




  Where does one eat?

- As with the vast infrastructure for overnight accommodations on the Caminos, the millennium-long tradition of support for pilgrims extends to eating.

- However as a peregrino, one of the first realizations that will dawn on you is that your daily cycle is quite out of sync with that of everyone else south of the Pyrenees.

- You will typically be arising about 6:00 a.m., wanting to eat about 7:00 in the evening and seriously thinking about bed by 9:00 or 10:00.

- This is all two to three hours ahead of the rest of Spain. Still there will likely be bars or restaurants on the route or near albergues that will cater to the patterns of the peregrino.

- Some albergues will provide meals and some will have cooking facilities for self-catering.

- You will become an aficionado of the menú del peregrino (the pilgrim's menu).

- You will learn to savor the mid-morning café con leche.


                             Confraternity of St James : Frequently Asked Questions  




  I'm a vegetarian ...

- We sympathise. It can be very difficult in France and Spain. http://www.csj.org.uk/veg.htm



                                                 Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011




  Eating in Cafes, Bars and Restaurants

- Bars in Spain are where everyone stops for coffee, sandwiches and other food. There are few fast food places on the Camino and most pilgrims hope fervently that there will be a bar in one of the small pueblos in each day's walk. Depending on the time of day and what your needs are, you can get coffee, water, soft drinks, wine, beer or something stronger. Coffee is always made on the spot, never served from a large pot as in many American restaurants. I depended on finding a bar every morning for my “café con leche” and something to nibble on, usually a magdalena (similar to a muffin).

- Bocadillo doesn’t really mean sandwich but for practical purposes it does. Ask for a “bocadillo de queso” and you will get half a loaf of crusty bread split and filled with several slices of the local cheese. At one stop in a small pueblo, at a place that wasn’t even a bar, but where a woman catered to passing pilgrims from her house, my bocadillo was delicious country bread with several thick slices of excellent white cheese, similar to a pressed ricotta. Sadly, I never encountered that cheese anywhere else.

- Some people prepared most of their meals in the kitchens of the albergues. Most were like me and ate in the local bars and cafes. Wherever there was an albergue, there was a place where one could buy a meal. Often there was a bar with a “comedor” or dining room which featured a pilgrims’ menu. In many of these places, there was no written carta (menu) of the day’s offerings, and the man or woman taking your order would come up and advise you what was available for the first course, wait for you to make your decision and then repeat the process for the second course. For 8 to 10 euros (about 11 to 15 dollars), one would get two courses, bread, wine (or beer or mineral water) and dessert. We always finished a meal with a cup of coffee which was usually an extra charge.

- In every bar, dining room and restaurant, save two, there was a television. If it was off when we started, as soon as a local arrived, it would be turned on, whether they watched it or not. One exception was the dining room at the Parador in Santa Domingo de la Calzada. The other exception was a small inn in Galicia where the owner said he had removed it because people did not focus on the food when it was on.


  Types of Establishments

- There is supposedly a hierarchy of eating establishments in Spain although there are many that blur the boundaries and the name is often deceptive. Restaurants take the upper end in quality, service, atmosphere and price. All have bars, although there are many bars that provide little other function; except in small towns and villages, where the bar may mask a comedor (dining room) where excellent inexpensive food can be found. The cartas in restaurants and comedors feature different dishes that are intended to be served in courses-a steak will not be served with vegetables and other side dishes. Cafeterias are a step below restaurants and offer platos combinados. They often display pictures on the outside showing the various offerings available, which comprise the meal—dessert and coffee are always served as separate courses. Dessert is included in a “menú” but not with a plato combinado. Coffee (or tea or infusion) is sometimes provided as an alternative to desert.

- Asadores are restaurants that specialize in roast meats, usually over a wood fire (fuego de lena) or in an wood fired oven (asador de lena). There are other speciality restaurants: Sideria—featuring cider, Marisceria—fish and shellfish, Cerveceria—beer.


  “Menú del Día”

- Almost every restaurant offers a “menú del dia” or “menú turistico;” many of those on the Camino offer a “menú peligrino.” These are all multi-course meals at a fixed price, usually consisting of a first course, main course, dessert, bread and drink at a price lower than if ordered á la carte. They are seldom included on the carta provided by the waiter but are sometimes written on a board outside the restaurant or will be gladly described by the waiter if asked. A note of caution, if you do not speak Spanish well, do not expect an extensive conversation. You most likely will be frustrated if you try.

- In one modest place the dialog went something like this:

* ¿Ensalada o Sopa? (Do you want salad or soup?)


* ¿Pescada o carne? (Do you want fish or meat?)


* ¿Y para beber? (And to drink?)

  Agua mineral sin gas y vino tinto. (Mineral water without gas and red wine.)

  The resulting meal was delicious. 

                                                                * * * 

  Buying and Cooking Your Own


  Cooking Facilities

- Most public albergues have a kitchen with limited facilities, cooking ware and plates, glasses and cutlery. The ones I have seen had a modest kitchen including a stove, sink and food preparation area, usually a small refrigerator, but there was no certainty as to what else would be available. Some were very good with two stoves, a refrigerator, and were well outfitted with pots and pans, dishes and utensils. Many were short on one thing or another. Once after deciding to have a group meal with 12 people pooling our money to buy the makings, we realized well into the preparation that we only had the utensils for 6 people. We had to borrow glasses and some utensils from a nearby cafe to augment what we were able to scrape up from the pilgrims that carried their own. All of that contributed to the meal and the sense of camaraderie.


  Buying Ingredients

- Most towns and villages are large enough to have one or more small grocery stores. But do not expect to encounter a supermarket and the selections such implies. The small grocery stores will have very basic items. Do not expect to find varieties of lettuces and many fresh fruits. Some villages are too small to support a store and they are served by mobile shops, often consisting of a modest panel truck which makes daily visits to the village and sells fresh fruits and vegetables and other items from the rear. Its arrival is usually announced by the constant blaring of the horn and one can find its location by looking for the women going or returning with their shopping baskets.


  Suggested Recipes:

- The following are some recipes suggested because they will be easy to prepare in the kitchens found in albergues and the ingredients should be easy to obtain in the villages one will pass through.

* Pimientos con anchoas

* Pasta with various sauces: garlic and oil, anchovy, fresh tomato; alfredo

* Tomato bread, with ham



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