I'm often asked for recommendations for books on living the Liturgical Year in the home, in particular those wonderful Catholic feastday cookbooks. I discovered two new ones this Advent, and will also mention a few tried and true titles. There's still time to request or order these books for Christmas!
'Tis the Season to be Baking by Father Dominic Garramone, O.S.B.
'Tis the Season to be Baking: Christmas Reflections and Bread Baking by Father Dominic Garramone, O.S.B. is a small but packed little volume on Advent and Christmas baking. Father Dominic had a PBS series, Breaking Bread With Father Dominic, and this is his fifth book on baking bread, see Monastery Greetings for his other titles. You can also read a bit more about Father in this magazine article.
I was hooked right from the preface -- Father captured exactly what I feel during the holiday seasons of the year:
One of the most common comments I hear about baking is something like this: "I don’t have time to bake bread much anymore–well, except during the holidays, of course." What an amazing paradox: many people only have time to bake during what is often viewed as the busiest time of the year! But we make time for what is most important to us. What these people are really saying is: "My family’s Christmas baking traditions are so important that I always make time for them."I don't bake bread as often as I would like, but I agree with Father, I want to do those special breads for Christmas and Easter. I love how making bread in my home reminds me of the Holy Mass in a small way. And so for feast days, bread is the extra component I like to share.
Father explains his book:
The breads I have selected for this book are a mixture of traditional recipes and original creations. Some have been made for centureis, some I inherited from my mother or my grandmothers, others are "new traditions" of Saint Bede Abbey that have only been around since I started baking for the community. But each bread has a connection to the characters we find in the Christmas story as it is presented in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each bread directs us to reflect on how we can better prepare to celebrate the holy days of the Advent and Christmas seasons. I hope the recipes and reflections included here will help you reclaim some of your own heritage or create a new tradition for your family, and make your holiday baking a means of deepening your own spirituality.The recipes are wonderful, easy to follow, and most have black and white illustrations and diagrams. Included in the collection are recipes for St. Nicholas, St. Lucia, St. Joseph, the shepherds, angels, the Wise Men, swaddling clothes, and much more. There is also a wonderful menu and recipes for a Family Christmas Brunch based on Father's own family's traditions. And since Christmas is a whole season, giving this book for Christmas Day there is still much time to try out many of the recipes!
Sacred Feasts: From a Monastery Kitchen
by Victor-Antione D'Avila-Latourette
Last week I popped into a Catholic bookstore and saw Sacred Feasts: From a Monastery Kitchen by Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette. Brother Victor is a Benedictine Monk and has written many different cookbooks. His religious order abstains from meat, so all his cookbooks are vegetarian, but include fish, eggs, and dairy. Brother has written many other cookbooks, such as Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and Twelve Months of Monastery Salads. All of his recipes are simple but flavorful, with a nod toward the French tradition of cooking.
This newest cookbook is one I've been hoping Brother Victor would write. All his other cookbooks would be around the seasons and months of the year, sometimes with different recipes named for feast days, and a few dishes to celebrate the feasts, but this cookbook is written around the liturgical seasons and feast days! Take a peek inside the Table of Contents to see the great variety.
When I got home from my little bookstore outing, I requested this book for a Christmas gift from my husband. I cannot wait to really read through the book and try the recipes.
For the newly married, those beginning a family, or families just taking an interest in a Catholic perspective on liturgical year and cooking, A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz is the perfect gift.
In my opinion, this is the best overall Catholic cookbook in print today. Mrs. Vitz covers all areas -- seasonal, liturgical seasons, feast days, saints, traditional and cultural recipes, and also family and sacramental feasting. Each recipe has a wonderful background and are easy-to-follow.
A must for every Catholic family.
Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf
I think Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf is the next level of liturgical cooking. This is a beautiful book, hardcover, with full color photos of the dishes and beautiful art of the saints -- nice enough to be a coffee table book. The recipes are wide and varied, from main meals, desserts, breads, and appetizers, most traditional recipes from various countries. Included is a biography and a classic artistic rendition of each saint before the recipes are given, and usually there are several for each saint.
Not all saints in the calendar are included, but there is a wide variety. If you enjoy reading Catholic Cuisine, this book would be a wonderful addition to your cookbook library.
Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle
I have to include Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle and her companion book, A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations. Mrs. Bogle is a British author, and she shares many Catholic traditions around the liturgical year, particularly from her country. They aren't only recipes, but provide various Catholic customs and traditions. Perhaps you have seen her on EWTN, her show Feasts and Seasons, which brings the books alive to the American Catholic audience? Check out the website for a few of her recipes. Her books are very enjoyable to read and quite informative.
Happy reading and baking!