Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Review: A Taste of Heaven

If a historical study of culinary delights and delectable cuisine could be done a very convincing argument might be had that those delectable delights rest upon the backs of monks and nuns. A Taste of Heaven: A guide to the Good and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns by Madeline Scherb, though part cook book, travel guide – as the inside cover promotes – contains bits of history of various foods and the monkish developments to those foods over the centuries.

My favorite parts of the book, included the sections where the author gives a brief history of the various abbeys from where she draws her recipes and food, which often included a little gems on the abbey’s spirituality and daily routine. I say this mostly because I am a theology teacher who sometimes teaches church history, so this was a nice easy readable book, which I hope to share some parts with my students.

Each recipe highlights one of the Abbey’s signature food. So if the Abbey is known for it’s beer, as is the case with Saint Benedict Abbey and many other monasteries in Europe, then the recipe will be Creamy Beer Soup, which includes Achel, the beer brewed by the monks at St. Ben’s near Achel, Belgium. Likewise if the Abbey is known for its cheese, as is the case with Postel Abbey in Mol, Belgium, then the recipe will include that Postel Cheese; in this case, the recipe was a Flamiche, which is a Belgiam quiche. No worries, the book also highlights several Abbeys in the United States, including Gethsemmani and the cheese for which they are known.

Practical advice about eating and tasting this monastery food is also found in the book. How to enjoy a Trappist brew is just one of those sections, and the author, who calls on the expert beer advice of Tim Webb, describes a pour that is equally important to the enjoyment of the Trappist beer that rivals the pour of Guinness. Also, when tasting cheese she writes, it is best to “start with the mildest and work up to the strongest.”

Not devoid of spirituality, Madeline Scherb invites her readers to make the journey to some of these abbeys and not only enjoy the food but also emulate the daily life of the monks and nuns while on the grounds of the Abbey. Make a pilgrimage, “Do consider a retreat even if you’re not Catholic; monasteries welcome guests of all faiths” she writes in the section titled “Monastery Etiquette” where other practical advice is given to the unfamiliar monastery visitor such as:
  • “Do bring cash or a check to pay for your room, because many guest houses don’t accept credit cards.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to leave family and friends behind; the best retreats are spent in solitude and silence.”
  • “Don’t be nervous about attending prayers for the first time”
  • “Do feel free to attend prayers. (It’s polite to do so before meals.)”
  • “Do bring flip-flops for the shower.”
Is it a must read? Well if you like cooking and trying new recipes the book is certainly worth reading as there are a variety of recipes of a variety of complexities from the simple only needing a few ingredients to the more complex that requires at least a working knowledge of the kitchen. Personally, I’m waiting for a nice cold rainy day to try the Creamy Beer Soup.

Though she was silent about Affligem, my faviorite Belgium Abbey Ale, she covered a nice selection of foods that can be found in the US via certain national specialty stores, online, and Whole Foods. There is even a "shopping guide" that ends the book so you can be certain on where to find the specific food for which you are needing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Incense meets Non-sense

It was a bit strange when I went into this beautiful gothic church in Paris and found such modern art. I have no problems with modern art that is sensible, but this is a little silly. I had no idea what to make of it when I first saw it, and I still have no idea what to make of it. Each stain glass window was to represent one of the 7 sacraments. Your job is to guess which sacrament each window represents. The answers are on the bottom, so don't cheat!

I missed one of the windows, or at least I think I did. They look so much alike I might just be confusing two windows and thinking they to be the same. But Anointing of the Sick is the window that is missing.







Your really do need a Phd in order to make any sense out of these windows. I don't see what is wrong with having windows that makes sense to the normal person. Maybe one day when I am old enough I'll be able to understand the windows better. (scroll down for the answers)

1. Reconciliation/Confession
2. Holy Orders
3. The Eucharist
4. Baptism
5. Confirmation
6. Matrimony

Not Said By Jesus Sunday

I come (back) from France

Just got back from my 3 weeks in France. An AMAZING trip. More on it late. Now is time for sleep.
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