If a pilgrim was lucky, it was one of the camino lessons they came to know well. At the very least, it was practiced for a time.
Of all the lessons in life, this is perhaps one of the hardest for many of us. Blame the distractions of technology, consumer society that is always beckoning us to want more, or even just human nature itself; our ability to be present is constantly under attack.
Being present on the Camino de Santiago was not a camino lesson us pilgrims needed to force, it became a necessity. Start to think of any of the 39 days ahead and a sense of overwhelming dread could crush your spirit, threatening to halt the next step. Begin to look too far ahead or start daydreaming and one if the inevitable rocks might sneak up on you. Panic would also set in. Will I find a bed? Should I call ahead? What if the place has bedbugs? What if I am lonely this whole way?
So the pilgrim had to choose; be panicked or be present.
Though fear is where it began, at least for me, being present was how we were able to soak in joyful moments and be open to serendipitous meetings and adventures.
Being present bore fruit greater than just fleeting whimsy. It became a great remedy for anxiety. Over time, a deep sense of peace begins to settle in the soul. Pain, though constant, becomes somehow bearable and somehow beautiful.
One practice that became part of my daily life was the use of an Eastern Orthodox prayer called “The Jesus Prayer.” I initially learned this meditations from reading “The Way of the Pilgrim.” Later, the meditation was reinforced with continued study of the Desert Fathers. The prayer is a simple one that rolls off your tongue. The meditation is simply, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is also a prayer that is part of my day to day back home. It was crucial to survival on the camino.
The Food That Came Out of the Lesson
I am trying to enjoy what is abundant now instead of wanting what is to come now that I am back home. I wanted to make a sensational Spanish Salmorejo from Pamplona even though tomatoes around here weren’t to come for another week. Instead I found a creative use for the zucchini a from a friend’s bountiful CSA.
Being present opens your eyes to the beauty that can be found this minute. Accepting the joys we have now open our eyes to finding the hidden gems in the here and now.
I made this soup to enjoy first as a warm soup and then chilled the rest to enjoy Spanish style, as a cold summer soup. The Spanish enjoy Gazpacho, Salmorejo and to my delight, watermelon and honeydew cold soup in the summertime. On a hot summer day, cool soup is particularly enjoyable.
This recipe, though not expressly Spanish, makes great use of the mounding pile of zucchini that is common in late summer here in Pittsburgh. Served cold or lightly heated with a chunk of crusty bread and a scoop of greek yogurt, drizzled with olive oil, it is a light and satisfying summer soup. Each time I take a bite, the cool soup transports me back to the dusty camino on a hot, sweaty day.
I hope it inspires you as well.
- 2 small to medium or 4 cups of roughly chopped zucchini
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups of water
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper seeds (adjust to your taste or omit)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (adjust accordingly)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- For serving: greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, crusty bread
- In a dutch oven or saute pan over medium heat, add oil and butter until melted together.
- Add onions and cook until softened and fragrant. Do this slowly to avoid burning.
- Sprinkle in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until its fragrance releases.
- Place zucchini in pan and cook until just softened. When this is done, add in spices and mix a few seconds until combined.
- Pour in water and bring to a low boil. Continue cooking until zucchini is fully softened so that a fork can slide into the chunk easily.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- With a ladle, slowly fill blender with mixture until it is about halfway full. Watch closely because soup expands due to the heat. Slowly and carefully puree and then liquify until there are no more lumps and everything is well combined.
- Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
- Ladle into bowels and serve immediately or cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour and then serve.