Thursday, August 6, 2015

Monasteries and Meals

When I was studying abroad in Rome during my Junior year in college, I lived in a convent on the Aventine Hill.

Thus began my journey into learning more about monasteries and convents, and admire the daily patterns of their community life.  (When we were on our honeymoon in Greece, my husband joked we should get a bumper sticker that said, "I brake for monasteries." He was only half kidding.)  

Though  we lived separate from the nuns, our little school of fifty students studied, socialized, and ate together for four months, all within that building above.  Most of us (including me), also slept in one of the guestrooms.  This was also before cell phones, so we all got to know each other quite well.

The food at this monastery was prepared by the nuns, and it had a lot to be desired. We had the same "nun buns" and coffee for breakfast. Lunch was hot (five hours later.....the 8 guys in our program were starving!) and was almost always breaded chicken cutlets with a side of lettuce.  Dinner was similar but even smaller, almost a snack.  This was quite a change from the never ending options of our college cafeterias.  

So, yesterday, at the Habitat ReStore, I was surprised to find this book:

My perfect combination: monasteries and recipes.  I was also surprised to find out there was good food to be had in monasteries. Apparently, nuns and monks truly pride themselves on spoiling their guests with gourmet food.  A recent google search for "monasteries, NC" took me to a job listing for a sous chef at a local monastic retreat center.  Where was the sous chef in Rome? In the best city for eating in the world?  

I really don't see how with two children under four I will be able to visit these monasteries anytime soon, and with these communities going into quick decline, there might not be much time to wait.  But, in the meantime, I can take in some of their spirit and prayers by cooking:

Chicken with Orange and Walnuts and Cheese Pie from Pendle Hill Quaker Center in Pennsylvania
or a Huguenot Torte from the St. Christopher Conference Center in Charleston.  

and praying:  

Bless our hearts
to hear
in the breaking of the bread
the song of the Universe.

(Father John Giuliani, Benedictine Grange, West Redding, CT).  

I will keep you all updated on how (of if) these recipes turn out!  

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