Camino Food (Feed Me!)

First things first: be prepared for the amount of food you will eat along the Camino Frances. I was shocked, yet rather gleeful, at the amount I managed to put away every single day. But sometimes I did force myself to stop eating out of sheer embarrassment from my gluttony. Also? Indulging in one of the seven cardinal sins probably isn’t a good idea when on a Pilgrimage…

The quality of the main meal of the day (Pilgrim’s Menu, also known as dinner) would probably make Jamie Oliver cry and Gordon Ramsay tear Spain a new one. However, you can’t really look at it, as food – it’s fuel, and fuel alone. By the end of my walk, though, only once did I ever want to throw up at the sight of my plate. And only once did I have a truly lovely Pilgrim’s Menu. All others fell in between. But, especially in the bigger towns/cities, there are options to eat as a civilian and not as a pilgrim. I normally didn’t do so, for two reasons: more expensive and not enough food. The three course meal really is a blessing along the Camino Frances.

If you're thirsty, a soda machine suddenly appears in the countryside

If you’re thirsty, a soda machine suddenly appears in the countryside

Note: If you have any kind of food allergy, sensitivity, or just plain don’t eat certain things, life along the Camino can be a little difficult. You may have to make your own meals more often than not, eat from regular menus, or have really good Spanish to explain your needs. I have an allergy to fresh pork (ham and bacon are fine – yay!) and despite my care, I got sick – twice. Having some Spanish at the restaurants is a good idea. For example, if you are vegan, you’ll need to say “Ensalada sin atun y huevos, por favor” which is “salad without tuna and eggs, please”.  Important as I’ve never gotten a salad without one or both! If you are Celiac, knowing that “pan” is “bread” and “tengo una alergia al gluten” for “I have a gluten allergy” is a good idea. But do expect cross-contamination of some sort! My personal mantra was “hay cerdo en eso?” as it helped me (mostly) avoid the pork in a pig-heavy Spanish diet.

If you don't have Spanish, the almighty vending machine can help you out

If you don’t have Spanish, the almighty vending machine can help you out

Breakfast: Normally consists of tostada con Cola Cao or café con leche. Pretty much the only thing available for breakfast at bars. And bars are pretty much the only thing open between 7 and 10am. You can add some excitement by asking for some butter or jam to go with your toast. If you manage to score some cheese, even better! Breakfast

Second Breakfast: The delectable tortilla, either with a Coke or a Cola Cao, depending on the weather.

A rare find - bacon and eggs

A rare find – bacon and eggs

Lunch: The amount I ate at lunch depended on two things: if I packed something or how much distance was left to cover that day. If I packed a lunch, it would have been bocadillos (queso y jamon), chocolate, cheese, and/or nuts. If I still have a couple hours or more of walking left to go, then I’d stop for a proper 3-course refueling.

Picnic time

Picnic time

Snack: Ranged from more tortilla to ice cream on a stick. Because who doesn’t like food on a stick. Or churros. Churros are good.

nothing like the real thing

nothing like the real thing

Pinxos: If you are in a larger town or city, take an afternoon to discover pinxos (also known as pinchos). These are basically small plates traditional to northern Spain. Please don’t call them tapas when in this region! I don’t pretend to understand what the difference is (can anyone explain?) but I do know not to mix them up!

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Dinner: This is the main social meal of the day, the Pilgrim’s Menu (PM). I ate with others about 75% of the time, ranging from one person to a giant table of 20. PM is three courses – you are almost always going to have pasta or salad as an appetizer, meat with French fries as the main, and a dessert that is rarely delectable. The PM is usually served starting about 6 or 7pm (early compared to regular menu starting about 9 or 10pm!) and is washed down with copious amounts of vino tinto.

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Santiago Splash: if you’d like to treat yourself to something unique as a reward for reaching Santiago, I suggest you go to Casa Marcelo. Interesting and odd small plates, Spanish style!

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Okay, confession time: A fellow pilgrim and I went off Camino in Ponferrada in search of McDonald’s as we both wanted to eat something different for a change. And yes, McDo counts. But I am ashamed to say that it got to the point of being Holy Grail for us as it took us an hour to find the place and we wouldn’t give up until we found it! But it was good. Very bad yet very good. Thanks, Johny, for showing a girl a good time!

Bad yet good

I can be in a McDonald’s  commercial!

Off PM: The world is your oyster if you decide to eat away from the Pilgrim’s Menu.

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10 responses to “Camino Food (Feed Me!)

  1. I spent only a little over a week in Spain, but your post (and pics) made me miss it and all of its fun foods!! But with a gluten allergy I cringed when I remembered trying to make vending machine food work for a meal 🙂 very informative post for traveling in Spain!

    • a friend of mine is Celiac and my eyes have been opened to that whole world – Spain certainly doesn’t make it easy for those with a gluten allergy! but i’m glad you liked the post – thank you for commenting!!

  2. What kind of peppers are those? I have been noticing some restaurants grilling sweet green peppers with a lemon dipping sauce. So delicious! Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • i believe they are padron peppers! i didn’t find them spicy but it had an interesting flavor – not 100% sure i liked them 🙂 i’m glad you liked this post – thank you for commenting!

  3. There’s a few not so appealing plates in there but for the most part this post made me hungry! As usual Celiacs never get to eat the fun stuff though!

    The McDonald’s thing is funny, something like that which you almost never eat at home suddenly becomes this rare desirable thing! At least at the time you were burning the calories for it!

  4. love this post! I also love the giant chunk of cheese with your lunch meal. 🙂 I saw pictures of shellfish, did you end up trying any?

  5. Pingback: Camino Goal: Santiago’s Cathedral | Rusty Travel Trunk·

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