30th August, 2023.
Polo de Allende, Spain.
Only 4 hours after we arrived at Polagrino Albergue, Camino Primitivo, we leapt into action to serve 15 pilgrims for dinner.
We were expecting maybe 6 pilgrims to come, but people kept coming because of the rain. By 8, we had 15 very cold and hungry pilgrims waiting to be fed, a full house.
At this albergue, we are not only doing the usual house keeping duty, we are also need to cook vegetarian meal for whoever want to join in.
We arrive the day during a switch over day, so luckily other hospitalerors quickly brought us up to date. The house keeping part isn’t tough, normal task one needs to do at home.
If you are stationed at an albergue that needed to cook for a large crowd, work out a menu that is delicious and easy to put together. Our to go menu is: mixed salad, lentil soup, bread and vegetable pastas. Salad and soup can be made ahead. Pasta can be boiled ahead to al dente then rinsed with cold water to stop it continuing to cook. Sauce also can be made ahead and keep it warm. About half hour before dinner, warm up the sauce. Boil a big pot of water and once the water is hot, put to pasta back in for a few minutes to warm up, then serve. To save time, we always use the kettle to boil the water.
Don’t make everything last minute. Makig food ahead of time can save a lot of stress when 15 hungry mouths are waiting. Also you can visually portion everything when they are cooked ahead of time. In case you need more food, add stuff to your salad, like canned corns or canned white beans. We always make more so we can have the leftover for the next day, if there is anything left.
This albergue has an instruction sheet on all tasks, make it very easy for referencing.
Be prepared to have a lot of downtime. You aren’t working all the time at the albergue. Bring a book, learn Spanish, do a painting. You need something to occupy your time as some albergues are located at tiny villages with not much to do, like this one we are at.
Divide tasks in among of hospitaleros. If you can’t cook well, try food prep and let someone else who can cook well to do the cooking. Or stay out of the kitchen and do clean up instead. One person can do changing of bed sheets while the other one mops the floor. It creates less conflict when tasks are divided.
Spend time talking to pilgrims. Everyone brings something unique to the table. Some people aren’t the chatty type, respect that and give them space.
Bring something that you think will be nice addition to the albergue. We brought Canadian pins to give out. I brought Montreal Steak spicy for cooking. Previously I have brought curry powder to make curried potatoes. We also brought heavy duty house gloves for washing dishes and cleaning yucky stuff. Not every albergue stocks gloves. Leave them for the next crew.
A warm welcome and smile goes a long way.