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Large meal at midday like Iberian Culture? Is it for you?

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Year of past OR future Camino
2014
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
 
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Isca-camigo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Various ones.
If its possible I try to have my main meal(la Comida) at somewhere between 1500 and 1700pm, the latter time is usually only possible at weekends or larger towns, but saying that we arrived soaked in a small town on the San Salvador and managed to catch lunch at just after 1700 before they shut the kitchen down. Then in the evening I will go out and have tapas, which in places like Lugo, Ponferrada or Pamplona and others is ideal because it is the local culture there to go and have drinks in different places and take the complementary tapas or pincho, the advantage of this is you get to see the old towns at night, you are not eating too much before you crash for the night and the Spanish are more flexible in the times they offer tapas, if i was wanting to have cena where the locals eat then I might have to wait to at least 2030 for a fairly big meal. With tapas I can eat like the locals, earlier and then back off to my bed. This way of eating isn't something I have planned, I just realized over several years what was working for me, other people have their own preferences. Sometimes on the busier routes it gets jumbled up a bit as you make friendships and I tend to just go with the flow when its like that.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Like @Isca-camigo I tend to go with the flow, but my optimal practice was to arrive at my destination about 1 or so, shower and wash clothes, then go down to the comedor and have my main meal of the day. After a siesta (or a splash if I am near the sea on the del Norte), the pilgrim's mass, if available (rarely, off the Francese), then a tapa or two with a glass before bed. But it the walking goes into the afternoon, I wait until the ungodly late hour of 8.30 to eat. While the Spanish have altered their hours along the Francese, they have not done so in other places, so one has little choice unless one is self-catering.

I studied in Ireland in the 1970s, where the main meal on Sunday was about 1 pm, and was still often the case during the week in many rural areas, so this practice did not shock me as much as it did many of my fellow Canadians, several of whom fell into abject misery when their long-held eating schedule was ignored by the society around them.
 
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Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Year of past OR future Camino
2014
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
 
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CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I've always eaten this way, and have always eaten very late smaller things in the evening. Large lunch and very late tapas suits me perfectly and so I did not change but adopted many new regional recipes into my cuisine at home.

I admit that I find it deeply rude of pilgrims (often from Canada, where I live, but from N. America more generally) who seem to think Spain should change its food culture to suit their general habits.

When travelling, IMHO, it is most rewarding to live as the locals do, not to demand the recreation of home.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
Do you enjoy the regional cuisines that already circulate in the large midday meal and the smaller evening tapas routines?

If so, I recommend three books for at home cookery:



 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I also have been wondering about this as a Camino strategy. Lunch pricing seems to be less expensive, you’re not at the mercy of very late evening meals, and a mid-day break would give your body a rest.

Ideas?
Any time on the Camino I passed through a village pub/restaurant offering a mid-day hot meal with a menu on a board out front, I took advantage of it.😋
 

edandjoan

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
St. Gallen to Muxia
2012-2018
We most often have our main meal around noon. It works because we no longer have children to accommodate with school and schedules. During school breaks. when they were growing up we did our main meal at noon. Growing up on a fam it was also a "normal" things. But, when walking in Europe we often have our main meal in the evening and just pack fruit, cheese and bread for the day.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Then in the evening I will go out and have tapas, which in places like Lugo, Ponferrada or Pamplona and others is ideal because it is the local culture there to go and have drinks in different places and take the complementary tapas or pincho, the advantage of this is you get to see the old towns at night
I agree that this is a great option in the cities, but a rarity in smaller villages which make up the larger part of the Camino.
 

Friend from Barquinha

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
Under normal "non-Covid" circumstances we live about 2/3 of the year in Canada, and 1/3 in Portugal. We're hoping to eventually be Portuguese residents with occasional visits to connections in Canada, but current family responsibilities--quite apart from not being able to travel at all!--keep us mostly in Canada.

As soon as we go to Portugal, we shift to the emphasis on the bigger mid-day meal for restaurant-going. In small towns like ours, that's why you typically get the best combination of good regional home-cooking and a good deal. Many of the restaurants cook something special, and favoured by the locals, for the menu do dia, and it almost always includes bread, main course with vegies or salad or both, a non-coffee beverage (house wine or small beer or mineral water or flavoured soda), dessert, and a finishing coffee. Often you're given the opportunity to have soup as well. Usually for something between 6.50 and 8 euros or so. And mostly, the places with good cooks are packed--but they almost always can squeeze in one or two more! They typically serve the menu do dia till they run out, so you'll occasionally still see it posted (almost always on a blackboard, except for the fussier places) at 5 or 6 pm.

In Portugal, evening restaurant meals in our household are saved for somewhere special, sometime special. We have one particular restaurant in Barquinha that we like to go to, and their evening, menu-based meals are particularly good, though probably twice as expensive as their menu do dia at lunchtime. I notice that for the locals, lunch out for workers is what everyone expects to do, typically with co-workers. Dinner-time meals out are usually with the whole family, often multi-generational; served late, but not as late as Spain (from about 8:30 on, except when seniors go out--they're often earlier); and generally "a big deal."

For meals cooked at home, we tend to shift between the main-meal-lunch and main-meal-dinner schedules, depending on how we feel and who's cooking or feels like cooking. For much of the year, soups and salads are the stand-bys, other than meals out.

The downside of the main-meal-lunch schedule is that lunch takes a while and you really don't feel like doing anything for an hour or two afterwards. As retirees with control of our own schedules, that's typically not a problem. We just take tasks further into the evening, as the locals do.

---

Every time we come back to Canada, we resolve to keep with that schedule. However, North American schedules, which are centred around the 8-4 or 9-5 workday with a brief lunch break, make it challenging if you have to go anywhere and do anything.

I agree that I physically feel better if I eat more earlier in the day, and less in the evening. I'm looking forward to that eventually being my norm!
 
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Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Year of past OR future Camino
2014
Every time we come back to Canada, we resolve to keep with that schedule. However, North American schedules, which are centred around the 8-4 or 9-5 workday with a brief lunch break, make it challenging if you have to go anywhere and do anything.
Well, @Friend from Barquinha I guess we just have to stop going anywhere and doing anything in North America! Ha ha. Sounds like you are as frustrated as I. Whenever I want to get together with friends, it is always about dinner, large meal. Sometimes I get away with "Happy Hour" at about 3-4 with lots of appetizers. Sort of like the whole tapas thing! Any other tips/tricks that anyone has, I have open ears!
 

AnneO

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2023
I studied in León for a semester in college, and I tried to continue that eating pattern when I came home, but I found it nearly impossible. The key to that lifestyle I think is the long lunch, which is mostly non-existent in the US. Maybe after I retire I will be able to return to that on a more regular basis, but I love it when I travel to Spain.
 

Friend from Barquinha

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
I studied in León for a semester in college, and I tried to continue that eating pattern when I came home, but I found it nearly impossible. The key to that lifestyle I think is the long lunch, which is mostly non-existent in the US. Maybe after I retire I will be able to return to that on a more regular basis, but I love it when I travel to Spain.
I think it really *is* healthier for one's body. Eating a heavy meal and then shortly after, either going to bed or sitting around watching TV etc. can be hard on one's digestion!
 
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Java

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
planning
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
After living in Germany for over a decade I wholly embraced the German concept of eating a healthy and hearty breakfast, with my main meal at lunch and a very light evening meal. Upon my return to Canada, and re-adjusting to not having the fully functional kitchen (as offered in many German offices) at my new work place, I made sure to bring my very solid lunch to work with me and reheat in the microwave. My colleagues were appalled that I would choose to "dine" during my 1 hour lunch, but it gave me a relatively relaxed break. Now that I am working from home, I still prep my foods the evening before, so that I can cook and enjoy them at lunch in a relatively short time. I still maintain my "abendbrot" or evening bread with a small salad or soup and hot tea. I feel I need to have something hot in the evenings and opt for mint tea. I have found that I sleep much better when I have a light supper.
 

Java

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
planning
Well, @Friend from Barquinha I guess we just have to stop going anywhere and doing anything in North America! Ha ha. Sounds like you are as frustrated as I. Whenever I want to get together with friends, it is always about dinner, large meal. Sometimes I get away with "Happy Hour" at about 3-4 with lots of appetizers. Sort of like the whole tapas thing! Any other tips/tricks that anyone has, I have open ears!
I just don't order a large meal in the evenings. In my part of the world, smaller, lighter evening meals are always available. All the better to enjoy my wine!
 

Isca-camigo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Various ones.
I agree that this is a great option in the cities, but a rarity in smaller villages which make up the larger part of the Camino.

It is what I do in smaller villages but usually my window for eating is upto 1600 not 1700, I have been doing it for years on various Caminos , I have never had any difficulties in Spain, France is completely different.
 
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Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
I try to have my main meal at midday with a much smaller meal in the evening.

What usually gets in the way is that I regularly cook for others who don't follow a similar regime and don't particularly want to change.

What was happening was that I was ending up having two big meals and that is not good for my waistline ☹️

Lately, I have managed to be more disciplined and while I cook a big evening meal I only eat a tiny portion ☺️

So far this is working for me.
 

Beeman

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo,2017,Argonne and salvador,sept.2019
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
After living in Germany for over a decade I wholly embraced the German concept of eating a healthy and hearty breakfast, with my main meal at lunch and a very light evening meal. Upon my return to Canada, and re-adjusting to not having the fully functional kitchen (as offered in many German offices) at my new work place, I made sure to bring my very solid lunch to work with me and reheat in the microwave. My colleagues were appalled that I would choose to "dine" during my 1 hour lunch, but it gave me a relatively relaxed break. Now that I am working from home, I still prep my foods the evening before, so that I can cook and enjoy them at lunch in a relatively short time. I still maintain my "abendbrot" or evening bread with a small salad or soup and hot tea. I feel I need to have something hot in the evenings and opt for mint tea. I have found that I sleep much better when I have a light supper.
I have been doing intermittent fasting for about 2 years and eat from 1400 to 1800 ,having a big meal first and a small meal layer. do not get hungry in the morning,and have lose some 30 lbs. on it.
 

Opa Theo

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francais to Santiago
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
What I found difficult on the our Camino was breakfast. I'm accustomed to an American sized breakfast. I found I purchased bread and cheese the day before to have a more substantial breakfast. We adjusted to a main meal mid day plus rest and tapas portioned evening meal around 9 pm while on the pilgrimage. At home we usually eat an evening meal around 8:30 pm.
 

motero99

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019
Camino Norte (2020)
I was amazed at how much food some people ate at breakfast and lunch. I tried to finish my day by noon or one and then preferred soup or something light for lunch. I could not understand how people could walk after eating a lot. I tried it once and it just made me feel lazy and tired. One thing I experienced is that not many places had soup available at lunch. If they had it, it was a primero and they would not often sell just a primero.
 
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Felicia V

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Portuguese 2017 Porto to SdC
Return to Camino Portuguese 2018 Tui To SdC
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
Yes, my husband and I tend to eat largest meal mid day, and light at “dinner time” , I must admit, it wasn’t the Camino that influenced us, but age and indigestion, luckily, we are retired, so we don’t have the challenges that you do. It is fortunate that you are more of your own boss. Is there a way to carve out more midday time and extend work hours? ( perhaps to sneak in a siesta)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
One thing I experienced is that not many places had soup available at lunch. If
Well, @motero, I have just the camino for you. Walk in Portugal. Soup is available at every single meal I’ve ever eaten in a Portuguese restaurant!

Actually, thinking about @elle Bieling‘s original question, I have to say that I find the Portuguese meal schedule more suitable for me than the Spanish. A little later than the US but not as late as Spain. Though when I am walking in Spain, I far prefer the Spanish hours because I make a habit of having my main meal at “comida”/lunch, which can be as late as 4 pm and sometimes even 5. That gives me time to arrive, wash up, and then go eat. Like lots of you, I cannot even contemplate a big meal halfway through my walking day.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF- Finisterre-Muxia 03/17; Camino SK 10/17; Norte 03/18; Ingles 11/18; Augusta 03/19
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
Yes I lived in Slovakia almost 15 years and adapted to mid day soup, hot meal, dessert and coffee and never went back to eating heaviest meal after 4pm once back in Canada. It’s much better for weight control and sleeping plus I never eat as heavy midday vs North American evening dinner.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF- Finisterre-Muxia 03/17; Camino SK 10/17; Norte 03/18; Ingles 11/18; Augusta 03/19
After living in Germany for over a decade I wholly embraced the German concept of eating a healthy and hearty breakfast, with my main meal at lunch and a very light evening meal. Upon my return to Canada, and re-adjusting to not having the fully functional kitchen (as offered in many German offices) at my new work place, I made sure to bring my very solid lunch to work with me and reheat in the microwave. My colleagues were appalled that I would choose to "dine" during my 1 hour lunch, but it gave me a relatively relaxed break. Now that I am working from home, I still prep my foods the evening before, so that I can cook and enjoy them at lunch in a relatively short time. I still maintain my "abendbrot" or evening bread with a small salad or soup and hot tea. I feel I need to have something hot in the evenings and opt for mint tea. I have found that I sleep much better when I have a light supper.
My experience likewise after 15 years in Slovakia. 😃
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2017); Camino a Muxia (2017)
I heard about ten years ago (without following the advice at that time) that a healthy daily meal plan was to eat like a king/queen for breakfast, like a prince/princess for lunch and a pauper for supper. Since returning from the Camino I've tried to make supper the lightest meal of the day and lunch the heaviest. So a slight variation on the advice.
 

Steve900Hiker

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Portugues (2016)
While on the Camino Portuguese and San Salvador I found that two main meals worked well for me. Cafe con leche first thing or as soon as possible, then a good breakfast a couple hours into the day's walk, usually 9:00 or 9:30 depending on towns on the way. I had some fruit in the early afternoon, and then tried to eat dinner early, prior to the closing of food service at 4:00 or 5:00. I usually had the Menu del Dia/Perigrino Meal for dinner. If an early dinner wasn't possible I would eat as early as I could, but my preference was not to have a full meal at 8:00 or 8:30.
 

towanda1961

Laura
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances and Invierno (2015)
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
We eat this way. We live in Spain but have adapted our American eating schedule and now prefer it. We sleep better and have lost weight by not having a large evening meal. We also wait until about 10:00 for breakfast, which fits with the Spanish schedule. Give it a try!
 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
Not looking for fisticuffs over this but meals have really only one proper timing for our present society, regardless of employment or anything. In the morning, eat like a King / Queen, at noon, eat like a Prince / Princess and in the evening, eat like a pauper.

This has everything to do with the digestive system, its systems and timing, and nothing more.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
For many years now I've (most days) had 2 meals, breakfast and midday (around 3PM). No more eating until breakfast. When I do not eat this way, I have trouble sleeping and my body feels sluggish the next day. I do have the ability to do this because I live alone and am retired. I do vary it when social events get in the way. Our US social order makes this difficult for many.

I was actually eating more on the Camino, as breakfast was often just cafe con leche and some kind of bread. I burned out on tortilla early on, but loved it when I could get eggs. I'd stop for a bocadilla or something similar around lunch time, and then go out for a better meal after settling into an albergue.
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
Every time I have walked the Camino I would be hungry most of the day, can eat and drink anything I want and still lose about 10 kilos by the time I was finished. I never have a consistent meal pattern on the Camino and it varies with the situation. From nibbling on whatever I can all day to communal meals starting around 7-8 pm.
I do know that I do not count on anything being open midday, so I tried to always have something in my pack (nuts, chocolate etc) to eat to hold me over. Sometimes even just chips and beer at a bar.
 

Sirage

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago (2005), Porto to Santiago (2007), Vezelay for 200 kms (2009), From Seville, May (2015), Le Puy to Sangüesa (2016), Norte-Primitivo (Sep-Oct 2016)
I think the Spanish idea of a main leisurely meal at around 2 or 3 pm is ideal. This is how I have preferred to eat on my recent Caminos. (Also on more strenuous long bike rides.) On my next Camino, hopefully the Via de la Plata starting next March/April, my plan will be to have only 1 meal a day, and eat very little, if anything, before the mid-afternoon meal. Walking 20 - 25 kms on an empty stomach works well for me with no hunger pangs. A coffee or 3, maybe a small bocadillo jamon or pastry, during the walk. In the evening perhaps something light, mainly for conversation and company. My intention is to start early enough to finish walking before restaurants close after lunch where there is a restaurant.

In summary, close to one meal a day, perhaps something small mid-morning and a few hours after "lunch". I now prefer a large portion of meat so hopefully the Spanish can provide.

Walking 20 kms does not require too much extra food, 30 kms would. And what you eat is an important factor.
 

Bob91

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I'm very happy to see the comments. I plan to walk the Camino Frances either late this year or more likely next spring. My greatest fear is dealing with acid reflux. I do much better when I eat my main meal around 2pm and then either skip dinner or eat a very small snack. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to eat like this in Spain. From the comments, it seems I will be okay. Many thanks to all of you!
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017
Planning for 2021
I love the idea of the two breakfasts, One lunch, the merienda (no one has mentioned the Merienda) and ending with La Cena after 9pm.
What Hobbit in their right mind doesn't love a culture that makes room for 5 meals a day, giving the chance to sit down with family or friends for a chat, keep up to date with the gossip and put the world to rights, (to be actioned after the next meal of course).

I suppose the UK habit of breakfast, tenses, lunch, threeses, tea time. Dinner and supper is no longer de rigeur if it ever did happen like that. Pity.
 

dick bird

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
It's an interesting question with maybe a lot more variables than we might think. For example, in the UK in the 50's and 60's, when I was growing up, we were given school dinners and we had what was known as tea in the evening (actually a cooked meal). There was a big social change and now most British people have their main meal at night, and schoolkids have school lunch, which suggests that eating patterns are culturally determined and highly malleable.

Individuals vary. My partner gets ravenously hungry midday, whereas I can go without eating like a camel until about 7 in the evening when I eat like a horse (or a pig, or the animal of your choice, at any rate like an animal).

My conclusion is that you want to eat a big meal midday, there is nothing to stop you, except the more recalcitrant members of your immediate household. Just go for it.
 
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Sirage

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago (2005), Porto to Santiago (2007), Vezelay for 200 kms (2009), From Seville, May (2015), Le Puy to Sangüesa (2016), Norte-Primitivo (Sep-Oct 2016)
It's an interesting question with maybe a lot more variables than we might think. For example, in the UK in the 50's and 60's, when I was growing up, we were given school dinners and we had what was known as tea in the evening (actually a cooked meal). There was a big social change and now most British people have their main meal at night, and schoolkids have school lunch, which suggests that eating patterns are culturally determined and highly malleable.

Individuals vary. My partner gets ravenously hungry midday, whereas I can go without eating like a camel until about 7 in the evening when I eat like a horse (or a pig, or the animal of your choice, at any rate like an animal).

My conclusion is that you want to eat a big meal midday, there is nothing to stop you, except the more recalcitrant members of your immediate household. Just go for it.
A few years ago I watched a documentary on the history of meals in England (sorry reference not available). The rich ate a feast from around 10 am. Over time it got later and later, eventually requiring a small lunch to fill the gap before the main meal when it got to 4pm or similar. Eventually it drifted to the current time in the evening. Do not know what the more normal people did.
 

Frank Wortley

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
French Caminos - April/May 2013, March/April 2017 and (Sept/Oct 2018)
At home I eat around 10am and then between 5-6pm. On Camino I do the same for the morning and then when able at night. The main determining factor is wanting to connect with other pilgrims who become part of my Camino and I theirs. The shared meal is a wonderful place to enjoy each others journey. They have enriched my experience greatly.
 

Friend from Barquinha

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
IIn summary, close to one meal a day, perhaps something small mid-morning and a few hours after "lunch". I now prefer a large portion of meat so hopefully the Spanish can provide.
I don't know about Spain, but in Portugal, the portions of meat are bigger than I had ever seen here in Canada! Usually with about half a bushel of french fries served alongside.

I suspect the preference comes from the pre-1974 days, when the average rural or urban working-class person saw very little meat at all, other than on holidays. And the big portions were good for those who worked hard, physically, which was many of them.

But times have changed, and the everyday restaurants haven't caught up with newer trends, so a lot of people share or order half-portions, which typically cost about 2/3 what a standard serving costs. They don't usually do menu do dia as half-servings, since it's already such a good deal.

The big servings are good thing for you, if the same is true in Spain!
 

dick bird

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
A few years ago I watched a documentary on the history of meals in England (sorry reference not available). The rich ate a feast from around 10 am. Over time it got later and later, eventually requiring a small lunch to fill the gap before the main meal when it got to 4pm or similar. Eventually it drifted to the current time in the evening. Do not know what the more normal people did.
There's a wonderful sonnet called 'Régime de Vivre' by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, possibly the dirtiest-minded poet in the English language. It describes the daily routine of a 17th century rake. Unfortunately, I can't post it here, it is much too explicit, but it is worth hunting down, if you like that kind of thing, of course.
 

Kimtom

Wannawalk
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances on bike (2014)
Frances on foot (2019)
Frances on foot (2020)
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
After returning from the closing down Camino In March of last year, I decided to try making the midday meal my main meal of the day. I’ve found that it works well because I’ve got more energy and focus at that time of day to prepare a meal, and less so later in the day after working for 8 or 10 hours. (I also am self- employed) Its obvious that you need the energy from food to do your activities in the day and that you don’t need quite so many calories for the evening hours and for sleeping. With this switch everything feels more in sync.
As far as tips or strategies, for the larger meal I eat veggies and some kind of protein but no carbs as I get sleepy if mixing carbs and protein in the same meal. For the evening meal I will usually have soup that I have made up ahead of time, and bread and then before bed an apple and cheese so I don’t wake up hungry in the night. If I do wake up in the night hungry I’ll have something with oil or fat like peanut butter or an avocado. I also eat breakfast in the morning and dried or fresh fruit and nuts throughout the day. Usually have to maximize the calories as I tend toward being underweight. Everyone’s metabolism and body type and caloric needs are different, but we do seem to be made for the larger midday and smaller evening meal 🙂
 
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LakeMcD

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 15' Portuguese 16' GR10/Norte/Primitivo 17' Chemin LePuy 18' Salvador/Prim/Kerry Way 19'
While visiting friends in Italy we noticed that they ate a bit lighter in the late evening as well. Even without increasing my mid-day meal, I often feel much better if I reduce the intake of my evening meal.
 

Sean Lad

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2010 to 2019 walked total of 31 caminos
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
I mostly finish walking by 1pm
Menu with wine before 3pm
Sieste afte Bliss
Worked for me on all my caminos
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I admit that I find it deeply rude of pilgrims (often from Canada, where I live, but from N. America more generally) who seem to think Spain should change its food culture to suit their general habits.
I'm not sure how much is rudeness and how much is ignorance. I think a lot of North American pilgrims aren't aware of the details of the Spanish eating schedule and don't know an almuerzo from a comida or a merienda from a cena. They probably have a vague idea that the Spanish supper is later than the North American supper and ends up often being after albergue curfew. So they are pleased when there are places offering pilgrim menus that will feed them when the albergues are open and disappointed when there aren't.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I'm not sure how much is rudeness and how much is ignorance. I think a lot of North American pilgrims aren't aware of the details of the Spanish eating schedule and don't know an almuerzo from a comida or a merienda from a cena. They probably have a vague idea that the Spanish supper is later than the North American supper and ends up often being after albergue curfew. So they are pleased when there are places offering pilgrim menus that will feed them when the albergues are open and disappointed when there aren't.
Perhaps… but do they have to complain *so much* and be *so rude* as happens so often? “Why aren’t they here, open for me with my tourist dollars? Don’t they know they need my money?” Etc etc.

I think, “Clearly sir/madam they do not need *your* money as there is a ready, local clientele who will be returning day after day.”
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
Just curious if anyone has tried to alter their eating patterns after spending time in Spain and/or Portugal? Because of the American culture's love of the large meal in the evening, I have found this difficult to implement in my own life with much success. The days that I do have the larger meal at the midday, I feel so much better! Granted, the siesta would be nice after the large meal too, but I get that the 9-5 culture makes this almost impossible. I am now my own boss and create my own schedule, so I would appreciate any tips/strategies that some of you may have, if you have adopted this large meal at midday pattern for yourself!
I walked two Caminos before convincing my husband to walk one. He wasn't keen to change our main meal timing until his visit to Spain. Now, providing we don't have to attend (or provide) a dinner with other people, we have our main meal some time between 2 and 5pm.
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
Perhaps… but do they have to complain *so much* and be *so rude* as happens so often? “Why aren’t they here, open for me with my tourist dollars? Don’t they know they need my money?” Etc etc.

I think, “Clearly sir/madam they do not need *your* money as there is a ready, local clientele who will be returning day after day.”
Weird. I never heard pilgrims say that on any of my caminos. "Tourist dollars" generally wasn't in the vocabulary because in my experience, pilgrims often want to distinguish themselves sharply from tourists (hence the disparaging "tourigrino" epithet always applied to someone else). The closest I ever heard was "It's hard that the restaurants don't even open for the evening meal until after we have to be back in the albergue" or "There's a real missed opportunity here for them to get more business."
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I personally never heard any negative talk from other pilgrims, however I have always walked with family member(s) or friends so my interactions with others were often limited. Even at communal dinners I did not hear negative talk, although the wine was flowing.😉
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I will admit that I didn't follow the Spanish meal pattern when I was walking in Spain, generally because I was napping after my long walk when the Spanish were eating their comida. I also tried to stay at albergues that had communal meals, which were generally in the evening rather than the afternoon. For those who prefer to stick to the Spanish schedule, I wonder how that is managed. Do you avoid the communal suppers? Partake but only eat lightly? Have two large meals those days?

As for the original were I to try and bring the Spanish meal schedule home with me, I suspect that the main challenge would be convincing the rest of the family to adopt it, especially when not all of us are home together mid-day for what would be the main meal.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I'm not sure how much is rudeness and how much is ignorance. I think a lot of North American pilgrims aren't aware of the details of the Spanish eating schedule and don't know an almuerzo from a comida or a merienda from a cena. They probably have a vague idea that the Spanish supper is later than the North American supper and ends up often being after albergue curfew. So they are pleased when there are places offering pilgrim menus that will feed them when the albergues are open and disappointed when there aren't.

In Castilian, Almuerzo and Comida are both the main meal of the day (14h-15h). There are places where the word is Comida (f.e Madrid) and in others is Almuerzo (f.e La Rioja).
Merienda (17h-!8h) is a light meal and Cena is at 21h-22h.

In Galician, Almorzo is breakfast, Xantar, Merenda and Cea.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
In Castilian, Almuerzo and Comida are both the main meal of the day (14h-15h). There are places where the word is Comida (f.e Madrid) and in others is Almuerzo (f.e La Rioja).
Merienda (17h-!8h) is a light meal and Cena is at 21h-22h.

In Galician, Almorzo is breakfast, Xantar, Merenda and Cea.
I had always heard of almuerzo as a mid-morning snack (10:30-11:00), much like the "second breakfast" than many pilgrims are fond of, and not nearly as big as a comida. Something like the morning snack our kids get in daycare, or the coffee break our adults may take at work. Or like the morning version of the merienda.

Live and learn.
 
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Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
Whether abroad or adopting a big mid day meal at home we all know that 1 glass of wine is possible at lunch, but at a Camino dinner …. a glass quickly becomes “oh let’s get a bottle, it’s cheaper “ and that just leads to tears.
No it doesn't. It leads to convivial evenings.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I had always heard of almuerzo as a mid-morning snack (10:30-11:00), much like the "second breakfast" than many pilgrims are fond of, and not nearly as big as a comida. Something like the morning snack our kids get in daycare, or the coffee break our adults may take at work. Or like the morning version of the merienda.

Live and learn.
I never use Almuerzo (always Comida). I read on Internet that your meaning is possible and also could be breakfast and also the main meal depending on the region. A friend of mine from La Rioja uses it for the main meal.
It is a word in decline.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Well, it's interesting because my intent for this thread was not about what works for you on the Camino, which IMHO is to go with the culture, but whether or not you adopt this cultural norm after your return home! I am trying to implement the large midday meal AT HOME. I already do it when I am on Camino, more or less!
To answer your original question (bringing your thread back on track ;) ): No. 8.30-9.30 PM is way to late for me at home/normal life. Also:

I recently visited my doctor, for several minor, unimportant issues. One of them was: At the age of 67, and after 2 years without tobacco after 53 years of it (Thank God, at last I am liberated), I am putting on a little weight, and I was told that it was normal for us old folks, if you had big meals in the evenings; late.

On the Camino, I find this routine perfect for me: Morning coffe, then after 2-3 hours, a cold beer with some Spanish omelette. When I arrive at my place for the night, I find my bed, shape up, and go sight-seeing. If there is a tienda(grocery) in town, I buy local food/wine, and make a meal in the albergue kitchen, often sharing with others, or cook together. Then maybe a nap before I go out for a tapa or two with a glass of red, and then I hit the bed, ready for another day.

But, if the albergue offers a communal dinner, I will happily participate, both for the extra income for my hosts, as well as for pilgrim cameraderie, which can lead to unexpected friendships.

At home, our dinner time is normally between 5.00-6.30 PM.

Edit: Forgot to say: We are retired now, so it is easy for us to be flexible about dinner time. I can understand that others may have time constraints. OTOH: I cannot believe I am retired: Don't feel like it at all. But my monthy payment checks are solid state proof. What a joy. Have to make more detailed plans for my next, long, Camino.
 
Last edited:

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Alex, I substitute your cold beer with fresh squeezed orange juice to go with my mid-morning Spanish omelette.
Congrats on being able to give up the tobacco after half a century...not an easy thing to do I'm sure.👍
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
When travelling, IMHO, it is most rewarding to live as the locals do, not to demand the recreation of home.
The ancient saying: "When in Rome, do as the Romans" still goes.

Remember, fish and guests smell after 3 days...
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Remember, fish and guests smell after 3 days...
I often over the years have been a guest in someone's home for more than three days, and up to two full weeks in some cases...are you telling me I smelled of fish and was unaware? 🤔😳...😂
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I often over the years have been a guest in someone's home for more than three days, and up to two full weeks in some cases...are you telling me I smelled of fish and was unaware? 🤔😳...😂
I believe you did fine. Have to talk seriously to the owners of the house first, though... But we are now hijacking the thread. Again.: Back to @Elle Bieling
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
In answer to the original question.

"No!"

I simply eat when I am genuinely hungry no matter where I am. ("Genuinely" I have to think about...sometimes thirst will mimic hunger. Maybe that is just me.)

B
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
It's one of many aspects of the camino I never understood. I can't walk if I have had a big meal mid day and was often forced to have the main meal at night and rush back to the refuge. So I had a full tummy and was expected to go to sleep. That's not good for the body but it did seem to work somehow. But to answer the OP I didn't change my habit to have a big mid day meal, it tended to be a big evening meal but go to bed much later. That was 20 years ago and now I have smaller meals at lunch and tea as I get older. I found it difficult in Portugal though as the sizes of the meals were so huge I could not finish them and felt ashamed at leaving so much.
 

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