The camino, and this salmorejo, are both often on my mind. The road to Santiago is one that that lingers in your mind long after you return home. My last post focused on “being” and enjoying/accepting the present while walking the camino. Hopefully you considered using the bounty of late summer zucchini to make the perfect cold and creamy zucchini soup. It makes a nice light lunch in late summer or even early fall. Paired with some thick and chewy bread to dip into the bowl, you can’t go wrong. The best soup, however, a bright and velvety Salmorejo is yet to come.
This month teaching has begun and my head and my energy has turned toward school. Yet, as Labor Day Weekend rises, my heart gazes back to the camino. It would be a tragic lie to look back and think that all was perfect each day on the camino, a betrayal to one’s heart to think that the past was better than the future. In fact, the story of coming to know this salmorejo soup was one that was peppered with joy but also sadness and unrest. Quite like this moment.
A beautiful bright orange soup, much like the one above, was soon to lay before my eyes. I had trudged in what felt like interminable heat, alone for many miles. I left at the break of dawn, a cool mist still in the air. I was determined to get to Pamplona with enough time to beat the heat, enjoy some tapas and get to mass. Pilgrim’s masses were still sporadic at this point, but being on a religious pilgrimage, it seemed that this should be a daily goal. Off I sped towards Pamplona.
So I hustled. Barely did I look back or at anyone. At this point in my camino, solitude was what I thought I was seeking and it was sought out with fervor. Only problem is when you look to be alone, you really are…alone.
Loneliness and being alone had not always come in hand for me. Being alone is a strange thing. You need it. Being alone is the only way that one can effectively pray and really, truly talk to God. It is also a necessary component to refresh, process and create space for creativity to occur. But when you are alone and you allow loneliness to seep in, you will do anything you can to not be with yourself. Look back to the past! Look forward to the future! When loneliness begins to disease your heart it causes such cruel unrest.
Loneliness is uncomfortable. No one likes to be uncomfortable.
While I did get what I really needed that day, when I sat down at a lovely tapas bar to eat a nice lunch after mass, my heart ached. The aloneness I sought had been ruined with loneliness.
I had arrived in Pamplona in record time. I had a list to accomplish. Get a bed at the albergue I wanted to try. Check. Go to mass. Check. Explore the little charms of the city quietly. Check. The list was complete with the exception of tapas. I meandered the medieval streets but somehow exploring the food was just not as fulfilling as I thought. I stopped to check my phone, rest and grab some lunch. A glass of Rioja and a light lunch sat in front of me. I sipped on my solitary Salmorejo slowly and the ache of loneliness spread through my bones.
This Salmorejo may have been born in solitude; but there is a silver lining. Over time the aloneness became more and more needed as the trail nights became more and more intense. Communal dinners, full bunk rooms with masses of smelly pilgrims, waiting in frustrating lines to wash laundry, pilgrims were everywhere! I began to sink into that solitude and drink it up as I walked. It helped to prepare this introvert for a pilgrim filled night.
Furthermore, I learned to reach out when I needed others and became vulnerable enough to ask to walk with others without the fear I was bothering them. In that quiet prayer, my heart became more receptive to what others needed and not just what I needed at that time. Many people would reiterate to me the camino mantra, “Remember, this is YOUR camino.” I came to the realization that though you do need to refresh your body and soul with what you want, it was refreshing and liberating to open up to the needs of others. Sometimes, they want to walk with you because they feel lonely too. Maybe you need to give up the bottom bunk even if your feet are bruised and battered and climbing seems impossible. You may need to hang with someone with bedbugs and sterilize your gear to support them in their frustration.
Then, if you are lucky, after thinking you are left alone to be fed to the wolves…err…roam the streets in search of delicious tapas in loneliness; your camino family all shows up in Pamplona one by one and you have the best time together enjoying wine and tapas…and maybe another little shot of salmorejo.
Then strangely, somehow when you get home, the one dish you really want to recreate is that Salmorejo eaten in solitude. It is that good.
I thank Try the World for the beautiful olive oil that was used in this traditional Spanish recipe. Coincidently, upon returning, they had reintroduced their Spain box and offered to send it to me again. So, try the soup or you can try the tuna empanada or Tarta de Santiago that are also camino favorites. If you didn’t get out of the country this summer, you can still enjoy these dishes at home. Either way, I hope you enjoy a little bit of Spain from your home.
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, blanched with skins removed
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cups baguette insides
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 soft boiled egg
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2/3 tsp vinegar (the traditional sherry or white balsamic works well for this soup)
- If you have not yet, blanch your tomatoes. To do this, bring a large pot with 6-8 quarts of water to boil. Cut an x in the bottom of each tomato. Immerse tomatoes in boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until skins begin to loosen. Peel skins off and put your tomatoes aside.
- In a blender, begin by filling with the bread and place tomatoes on top. Let sit for a few minutes so that the bread can begin to absorb the tomato juice.
- Begin by chopping the tomatoes and bread for one minute.
- Add the garlic, salt and vinegar and begin to mix for one more minute.
- Slowly begin to add in the olive oil in a stream and blend until the mixture is pureed and the texture is almost smooth, another minute depending on blender power.
- Add in egg and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Serve garnished with crispy serrano ham and/or drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Eat with crusty bread.
Here is another nice olive oil that I received as a gift if you are in need of a nice one to treat yourself to. The estate also makes a lovely chianti that I first had in Italy years ago. I fell in love with Badia a Coltibuono ever since.