Saturday, September 5, 2015

Stories from the Camino de Santiago: The Carrefour Town

'The next town,' says Adeline while studying her iPad screen without breaking her five kilometer-an-hour stride, 'is a Carrefour town.'

'What's the town called?'

'I don't know, but it's a Carrefour town. It says so on the map. There's a little icon here.'

It's five in the afternoon, and I'm famished. We still have four kilometers to go along a brilliantly white and perfectly flat strip of gravel road that runs through the fading green wheat fields west of Burgos, ending at the next little pinpoint of civilisation, where we'll bivouac for the night. Since the last town, the paced crunch of our trail runners on the gravel path we're on has been slowly diminishing, like two steam locomotives nearing a station.

For the past five days our evening meal choices have been limited to that old culinary Camino standard, the peregrino menu. I'm amazed to think back now, after 800 kilometers, how absolutely standardised, ritualistic and exceptionally bland  the peregrino menus are all along the road. Order the ensalada mixta, the staple first course on the menu at Pamplona, you get lettuce, tomato, onion, and with slight variations boiled eggs and asparagus. Order it in Estella, you get ditto. And more of the same in Hontanas, Astorga, right down to Santiago. Little or no dressing, no condiments. I dare say that even the author of the Codex Calixtinus, bless his pilgrim soul, probably ate the same tired recipe on his pilgrimage tour, eight hundred years ago.

Which is why we're looking forward to the Carrefour town where, before we shower, wash clothes, or even take our trusty trail runners,  we'll drop our packs at the entrance of the Carrefour and stock up on dinner goodies. Sure, its over-lit, ample shelves are filled mostly with pre-packaged, radiated food prepared by a faceless international conglomerate who probably buys hot-house grown lettuce by the metric ton from corporate-owned farms, but we don't care. Why?

It's simple. Because Carrefour's gazpacho is the smoothest, richest, yummiest gazpacho you'll ever taste this side of the Pyrenees. Throw in a generous slice of goat's cheese (we're happy if it's local, but we'll settle for something imported from Italy) and a chunk of freshly baked pan and you'll see us kicking back on Adeline's sky-blue sarong on a lawn in a scenic park, or on a park bench next to a romanesque church, contently slurping from our green plastic mugs in-between mouths-full of tangy cheese and bread.

The rumour that, on the Camino, the pilgrim's journey is a fruitless search for culinary delight may be largely true, but there are notable exceptions, such as those you'll find in Carrefour towns. Go on, be a devil. Be different. Succumb.

Follow the first fifteen days of our Camino trip, starting here.

No comments:

Post a Comment