Friday, October 9, 2009

Alubias y Bacalao

First our important history with Santo Domingo. Roughly a year and a half ago, Susan and I tried to drive into Santo Domingo. But the street to our hotel was defended by a hydraulic pillar (just like the White House). Pushing the button on the panel to the left of the pillar had no effect. After three tries with the button, tempers were frayed. Then an old Spanish man cautioned us, “Tranqulidad” (Be calm). A moment or so later, the pillar retracted so we could proceed. There seemed to be a message there. So, on Father’s Day, Susan gave me my very own (and unique) Tranquilidad bracelet. It’s been a valuable life style reminder (feeling stressed? gently rub your Tranquilidad bracelet and the problem is guaranteed not too seem so important). Returning to Santo Domino, it seemed worthwhile memorializing this important Iverson milestone. Only one person went bonkers waiting for me to complete the photoshoot. I resisted the temptation to urge Tranquilidad upon a couple badly distraught about the pillar’s failure to retract. I just didn’t think I could bring the same authority to the message as our pensionista.
I walked into Santo Domingo shortly after noon, after leaving Najera a little before eight o’clock. I’d decided that (1) the best hour for walking the Camino is between eight and nine, when the sun is rising and the mist is burning away, and (2) I was going to die if I couldn’t manage to eat at least one sit-down meal a day. Since a sit-down meal at night is impossible – the Spanish subsist on an evening diet of wine, beer, and tapas – lunch seemed the available alternative.
I was also bent, although with less life-threatening priority, upon breaking out of the pilgrim ghetto of the “menu del dia,” offered wherever the Camino passes through a town or village. It devolves to an endless succession of ensalada mixta and lomo (roast meat, usually swine). So I walked around town and settled on a restaurant offering, among other Spanish specialties, “alubias y bacalao.” I knew I love baked beans, so I was willing to risk salted cod, which my short Spanish menu cribsheet defines as “salt cod, a Basque specialty, an acquired taste.” I was rewarded with not only a great meal (with a vast amount of rather good Rioja wine as part of the 10-euro set menu), but also a restaurant eventually filled with local people, or at least Spanish tourists, without a single foreigner, let alone a peregrino. From now on, I only walk early and try to eat outside the pilgrim menu-del-dia rut.