pupol: a Galician delicacy

on day 32 we came to Melide, the first town of notable size in our last province of the Camino — A Coruña — and had our first opportunity to try one of the regional specialties: pupol! (disclaimer that will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me: I did not try the pupol. I wasn’t tempted in the slightest no matter how novel it looked from the open window to the street.) we reached Melide about lunchtime and had planned to stop anyway and I had a vague recollection of reading something about it being known for the regional specialty of octopus so, duly intrigued buy the guy hoisting the nearly-ready-to-eat for other inquisitive peregrinos, we stepped into the first place offering pulpol.

while I went with some tasty Galician soup, Andy opted for the smallest portion of pulpol, served on a small, round, wooden plate. when he ordered, the guy at the front window hoisted the steamed pulpol from the pot, snipped off pieces from the tentacles and sauteed them on a grill beneath the window. in just a few minutes, the delicacy was sitting in the middle of our table, toothpicks ready and waiting. verdict from across the table: it was good, interesting. but more than you’d want to eat without something to go along with it. I suppose maybe it’s like eating a solitary hot dog — no condiments or bun, just a chopped-up hot dog. 

the approach to Melide came over a medieval bridge crossing the rio Furelos. the village once belonged to the Hospitallers of San Juan dating back to the 12th century. on the near side of the bridge stood a man offering to stamp credencials with a homemade stamp. throughout Galicia it wasn’t uncommon to see stamps out in all manner of peregrino-oriented establishments or even on the side of the road. this particular guy stood out in my memory, though, because of his location, but because he had his stamp stand set up on the back of his bicycle and part of one of his legs was prosthetic. we didn’t avail ourselves of this stamping opportunity, however, because by this point of our Camino our credencials were nearly filled up. we had to ration our remaining space, unlike those who started from Sarria or thereabouts.

around Melide, Neolitic dolmens and other sites attest to the fact the area was densely settled in prehistoric times; during the Roman occupation the town served as a crucial transportation hub where the Via Traiana and Catabrian roads crossed. despite its strategic importance at this crossroads, however, there’s little in the way of defenses as we saw elsewhere along the Camino. no enormous wall or castles or barracks erected to fend off would-be invaders; perhaps it was far enough out that most enemy forces didn’t bother. even when residents received permission to erect a wall to enclose the city, they never finished it. all their efforts went into providing lodging and food for pereginos flowing through the town. in 1375 the town notary and his wife donated funds to Franciscans to run an albergue on the outskirts of town which was favored by Castillian monarchs and remained in use until the mid-19th century. by then, however, the diminished demand from peregrinos prompted its conversion into a military barracks.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.