Two Steps Forward
The novel follows the journey of two main characters, Martin and Zoe, as they walk the Camino. For both of them the walk is almost accidental. Zoe has gone from California to France to stay with a friend but finds a scallop shell charm in a jewellery shop. The scallop shell is one of the most iconic symbols of the Camino and guides pilgrims along it’s way. Taking this as a sign she decides to walk a short way along the Camino. Martin, an English engineer wants to test a cart he has developed to help walkers who can’t carry a pack. They both start the walk from Cluny in France.
The story interleaves between both of their stories. The chapters alternate between each of them and their walking days. At first they are like ships that pass in the night. With the miles the Camino pushes them together and pulls them apart. The Camino demands they face their emotional baggage. For Martin the end of his marriage has been difficult. Zoe needs to learn to deal with the death of her husband.
One of the sayings common among those who walk the Camino is:
Use the waymarkers to lead you to Santiago, but use the lessons learned to find your way.
This is true for Martin and Zoe. As they walk the miles they come to terms with themselves and make new friendships along the way.
The book has lovely descriptions of the walk and the characters they meet along the way. The book is both a travelogue and an emotional diary. You feel that you are walking alongside the characters and and seeing the walk though their eyes. It is a fascinating read and makes you want to take on the walk yourself.
I really enjoyed the book and found it difficult to put down. Each chapter bought a new twist to the tale and left me wondering what was going to happen next. The authors have walked the Camino themselves. The details given in the book brought the journey to life.
Food references in the book
Two steps forward has many references to food. This is not surprising, as walking many kilometres every day will make you hungry. With each of the food references different aspects of the journey are highlighted.
Spending the night in a solitary abbey that takes in travellers, a few chilli peppers make a plain pasta more interesting. A night in a hostel means sharing a communal chilli. The challenge is on to see who can eat it hot. The travellers share a moment of togetherness along the journey.
However when making a recipe from the book I chose to make Santiago cake. It is found in the book in the following quote:
Renata was at an outside cafe in Castroverde when I walked in after making an early start. An empty plate was all that remained of her tortilla and she was digging into a slice of Santiago cake, a Galiacian speciality, moist, lightly citrus flavoured and probably flourless.
Read more: Moroccan Chicken from The Island Escape
Santiago Cake or Tarta de Santiago
Tarta de Santiago is a traditional almond cake from the Galicia region in Northern Spain. The first reference to it can be found in 1577 under the name Torta Real.The cake is enjoyed by locals and pilgrims walking the Camino or Saint James’ Way. On top of the cake is the silhouette of Saint James’ cross.
The cake is perfect for serving with a Spanish café con leche (coffee with milk) or as part of an afternoon tea. It also makes a lovely dessert and is often accompanied with a glass of sweet dessert wine. It also goes well with a cup of tea.
Santiago Cake Recipe
This is a traditional cake from the Galacia region of Spain which is eaten by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
- 225 g ground almonds
- 6 large eggs
- 160 g caster sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 4 drops almond extract
- Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 18OC, Gas Mark 4
Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking parchment
Grate the orange and lemon to get the zest and set aside.
Separate the egg yolks and whites
Add the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and mix until smooth and creamy
Mix in the orange and lemon zest and the almond extract
Add the ground almonds and mix well
In a separate bowl with clean mixers beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form
Fold the egg mixture into the almond mixture. It is quite stiff so mix well
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for forty minutes until firm to the touch.
Let the cake cool completely before turning out.
Cut a Saint James Cross out of paper and place on top of the cake
Dust the cake with icing sugar and then remove the cross. An outline of the cross should be on the cake
Why not pin the recipe for later?
Have you ever tried this cake or walked the Camino? Let me know below.