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The Search for Mantequilla

This summer we are connecting people, food, and travel. We love the stories that come out of sharing a meal with others and what food reveals about culture.

Some of our best travel memories are centered around food. This first story in our series is from our Senior Contributor Stokes O’Shields. She shares a memory from a youth trip our editor planned and led to Spain.

I walked the Camino de Santiago several years ago, the summer when there was an e-coli outbreak. Due to the fear of making customers sick, all restaurants and grocery stores were not selling anything with vegetables. We ate a lot of meat and bread during that trip, which was fine, although I was heavily craving a salad by the time we returned home. To try to make the dry bread a bit easier to eat, we would sometimes ask for butter with our food, what we thought was a normal request. Not realizing this was strange in the eyes of the Spaniards, as they would give us an odd stare. Then a few minutes later we would be given butter, in various ways, always very cold and not easily spreadable. This became an ongoing joke in our group, wondering what type of “mantequilla” we would receive, and how confused the server would look upon our request. We still don’t know why this was such a foreign concept to the Spanish, but it was fun to see their reactions to our request. I often think back on this trip fondly thanks to the laughs I shared with the people I traveled with over moments like this.

Do you have travel memories centered on food? If so, please share them with us. Send your food stories to us at or share them in the comments.

La Coctelera Restaurant in Spain on the Camino trip.

Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.


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