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.”
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.