is there to eat
of Saint James of South Africa
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
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
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
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
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
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!
does one eat?
with the vast infrastructure for overnight accommodations
on the Caminos, the millennium-long tradition of
support for pilgrims extends to eating.
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
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
You will become an aficionado
of the menú del peregrino (the pilgrim's menu).
You will learn to savor the mid-morning café con
of St James : Frequently Asked Questions
a vegetarian ...
sympathise. It can be very difficult in France and
W. Tripp, Jr. 2011
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
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
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.
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
¿Ensalada o Sopa? (Do you want salad or soup?)
¿Pescada o carne? (Do you want fish or meat?)
¿Y para beber? (And to drink?)
mineral sin gas y vino tinto. (Mineral water without
gas and red wine.)
resulting meal was delicious.
and Cooking Your Own
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.
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.
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
à Q.Pratique Route