City Light

Here is a short excerpt about meals from A Million Steps:

“I was beginning to understand more about meals on the Camino. Breakfast (desayuno) typically consisted of slices of a crusty white bread with butter and jam. The deluxe version was to have the bread run through a heat machine resulting in toast. A less common breakfast option was tortilla de patatas. It is made with thinly sliced potatoes lightly fried in olive oil. Eggs and onions are added to the mix.  It is served like a slice of pie in a stand-alone manner, or between two pieces of bread for a sandwich. Lunch (almuerzo) was usually a “bocadillo,”––two slabs of bread with either thinly sliced ham or hunks of chorizo as the lonely ingredient.  For dinner (cena) the “Pilgrim Menu” became a mainstay every night with little variance on choice or price. Dinner cost 9-11 Euros and consisted of three courses—a first, second, and postre (dessert). The first course was pasta, mixed salad, soup, or paella. The second was pork, beef, chicken, or fish. Patatas fritas (fried potatoes) always accompanied this round. For dessert we could choose flan (caramel custard), natillas (soft custard), helado (ice cream), arroz con leche (rice with milk), or fruta (fruit). Every evening meal included bread, water, and wine.”

Eating different food in an exotic location added a nice flair to the Camino.  Unlike our politicians, meals usually qualify as a uniting event.  On the path, dinner often allowed strangers from throughout the world to build friendship foundations.  During holidays, meals are a common place for friends and family to swap stories and reunite around the table.  For me, food is always a choice and sometimes consumed for no other reason than sheer boredom.

Last Sunday, a good friend of mine hosted an event at the City Light shelter for homeless women. There were three 2-hour shifts staffed with six to eight people.  We sliced, diced, dripped, sampled, roasted, scrubbed, and served our way through a great afternoon.  In the end, we fed about 100 women and children a meal consisting of roast beef, mashed potatoes, sauteed squash, gravy, fruit punch, and dutch apple pie a la Mode.

At 4:30, a long line formed with wide eyed women anticipating something really special. The kids buzzed in and out below their mother’s waistlines trying to get closer to the front.  With supreme politeness and obvious gratitude, the ladies sat down for dinner.  It was my pleasure to serve outrageously large slices of warm pie smothered in soft vanilla bean ice cream.  I asked the regular cook if this meal was really a big deal.  She explained that they will not see anything like this until Thanksgiving.

I spent about four hours at the shelter on that day.  At the end of their meal, I walked across a sunny street and drove to my three bedroom home in my shiny 2013 automobile.  With the ladies heavy on my mind, I skipped dinner and gorged on gratitude.