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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Friday, June 30, 2017

Menu de Peregrino or Menu del Dia?

You always have choices when searching for food in Spain. At dinner time, you will see posted all along the route, "Menu de Peregrino."

Menu de Peregrino is usually a 2 or 3 course meal that includes a meat dish, a vegetable, a dessert, and often includes bread and wine.  If you aren't easily bored, it's a good inexpensive choice. It can become boring however, as many places will serve the easiest, and pretty much the same, menu each day.

Here are a few examples of what you might expect:

Chiletillas de Cordero (lambchops)

Entrecot a la Plancha (grilled steak)

Maccarones con carne (Pasta with meat)

However, I almost always choose the "Menu del Dia" instead. And I look for local mom and pop restaurants and try to steer clear of the places catering to pilgrims.

Menu del Dia was begun by Franco during the war so workers on limited incomes could afford a nice rounded lunch each day. The portions are generally larger, there's more variety, and the food is generally better, in my opinion.

What this means is that you'll have to get used to eating your largest meal of the day mid-day. Then you can just snack for dinner.

Menu del Dia might include Primary or Secondary Plates something like these, a dessert, wine, coffee, and bread.

Caldo Gallego (Kale and Potato Soup)

Cordero con Patatas (Lamb with potatoes)

Croquettes and Salad (these are ham)

Clams in sauce

Another option for dinner is to simply order an "ensalad mixta," or mixed salad for dinner. It's generally a HUGE mixed salad with hard boiled eggs, lettuce, tomatoe, onion, olives, carrots, white asparagus, and topped with "atun" (tuna).  It's almost always served with bread and wine.  It's more than enough of a meal for me. If you are vegetarian, you can ask request "no atun, por favor," and they will leave off the tuna. But if you DO eat tuna, try this salad. It's incredible!

Here are a couple of versions:

I encourage you to try the gazpacho, a cold tomato soup, if you are walking in hot weather. It's delicious, filling, and sticks with you. There's nothing like gazpacho in Spain and each region has it's own variation.

Lentejas (lentil soup) is a popular item on most menus and it's very good. It probably has a meat base, however, so if you're strict vegetarian, you'll want to pass.

A hamburger (hamburguesa) in Spain will be a totally different experience for you, and if you're a hamburger person, don't be afraid to try them. They'll be different in every region.  Almost never like the hamburgers at home, the meat I refer to as "mystery meat" is maybe dyed bright pink??? It's ground super fine, so the texture is a lot different than we're used to. It could be beef, pork, or chicken or a combo of all three. The bun may be a lot different than you're used to. But have a sense of adventure and try it! It's one of my favorite go-to's for a quick dinner or lunch:

Dessert for the Menu del Peregrino is usually yogurt, fruit, or flan.
It can be varied with the Menu del Dia.
Flan is one of my favorites. 
It is a custard made from milk and eggs 
and covered with a caramelized sugar sauce.
It's very light and not too sweet.

I hope this has given you some ideas about what types of food you might expect along the Camino. There are, of course, many other choices, but the Spanish are a meat-eating country and if you're into meat, you'll love the food!  If you're vegetarian, it's a little more challenging and you may be doing a lot of your own cooking. But as more and more vegetarians walk, I see more and more choices. If nothing else, there are lots of markets where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Whatever your food choices, I hope you enjoy them and Spain's hospitality.
Buen provecho!


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