Slow Cooking And Camino de Santiago

Last year I did a Camino de Santiago, precisely, the one called Camino de Sanabres. If you follow my blog, you already know about it, as I wrote extensively about the experience. But if you don’t, suffice to say that Camino de Santiago is a generic name for a network of roads used by pilgrims in Spain, all ending in the city Santiago de Compostela. The most famous one is Camino Frances, which follows along the Northern border of Spain and France, and the one that is usually referred when people say “I’m going on Camino”. I didn’t do that, but a shorter one (380km), starting from a central area of Spain and heading North-West, through Castilla y Leon and Galicia.

Doing the Camino means walking a lot, sometimes 50+ km a day. Usually, you walk together with other pilgrims – Camino is, traditionally, a very good way to meet people and make friends – but this time around, because of the Covid thing, I walked alone almost half of it. And when you walk alone for hundreds of kilometers, you do a lot of introspection. You start to see new patterns, to understand things that you couldn’t in the past. You also get to try new things.

And one of these things was, surprisingly, slow cooking. Although it didn’t happen right away, I credit Camino for it. Also, it didn’t come up in one go, it was a process.

First, my eating patterns were shuffled completely during the walks. When you don’t know where you’re going to spend the next night, your level of predictability about lunch or dinner drops to zero. You literally have no idea if you’re going to find a suitable place to eat. So I had to adjust to an increased entropy in this area. Which simply means I made peace with the fact that I’m going to eat whatever I find available on my path.

Second, all these long walks changed my relationship with hunger. Because I wouldn’t eat when I was hungry, but mostly when I had some food available, I got a bit disconnected. When you’re not responding to a stimulus immediately, your tolerance to that stimulus increases. You train yourself to be less sensitive to it. To a certain extent, I somehow became immune to hunger. Don’t get me wrong, I was still getting hungry, but not eating in that exact moment started to become the norm, instead of the other way around.

Although I didn’t put any limitation on my diet, those two factors combined (along with the physical challenge) worked in such a way that at the end of Camino I was with at least 5-7 kilos lighter. To put this in perspective, I was far from being overweight when I started. So, when I finished I was close to my high-school body. Even more, I was felling great. I didn’t have any cravings whatsoever, I was just enjoying being lighter. On top of that, I was eating way less than before.

So, I started to take my time when preparing my meals. Before Camino, cooking was more or less a necessary chore. After Camino, cooking became an opportunity for enjoying my time. I discretely introduced a standard appetizer, consisting of grapes, cheese and wine, which just added to the level of relaxation. All the things I was cooking (mostly fish and seafood) were very, very slowly cooked.

That slow cooking made them tender and soft. So tender and so soft, that, instead of fighting to digest those bits, my body was receiving them now as a blessing. It was a blending, a melting, not a competition for calories.

And, after a few months, I realized I already had this – let’s call it “epiphany”, but it’s less than that – in one of my days of solitary walking. I knew I wrote about that realization in one of my social media statuses, so before starting this blog post, I went on my history and found it.

Here’s the relevant part:

Truth is, patience bakes the cake, not temperature. Patience is not optional, it’s a fundamental ingredient. You can’t bake a cake faster if you just raise the temperature, it will burn out, and you’ll miss the chance to have and enjoy a really tasty cake. So take your time.

What makes the blending and melting of the slow cooked food possible is this patience, this fundamental ingredient, which is now woven into my daily routine.

So, so many things will eventually blend in naturally, melt into your life without any effort, provided you have enough patience.

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