5 Cookbooks for Catholics Who Like to Eat and Drink
Cooking with monks, saints, the Von Trapp family and the Pontifical Swiss Guard
We love food and we love our Catholic Faith. When the two come together in the home, it sparks a special sense of charity, bonding and joy. Family recipes must be retained, but there’s always room for new traditions and the discovery of a special meal for that perfect occasion. Sometimes, that perfect occasion is the need for a humble soup, and other times it’s the need for a perfect holiday roast. Oh yeah — not to forget — drinks!
Over the years, my wife and I have collected a number of cookbooks. Especially living overseas, we’ve realized that the culinary art is interpretive, interactive and immersive. For us, we love discovering meals that remind us of the saints and those we pray for (or with). So, we’ve amassed a number of Catholic cookbooks and I want to share some of my personal favorites with you, in case you’re on the hunt for last-minute Christmas gifts.
The Vatican Cookbook
There’s no way around it: this book belongs in the kitchen of Catholics who enjoy cooking. I consider it, perhaps, the best cookbook we own. And the publisher, Sophia Institute Press, just released The Vatican Christmas Cookbook. If you’re unfamiliar, The Vatican Cookbook is exactly what it seems: favorite recipes of popes, others in the curia, and the Swiss Guard, taken right from the pages of the Swiss Guard notes and personal application. It features brilliant photography of the food and special places of the Vatican and Rome, and includes neat featurettes on Vatican art, history and clergy. Enjoying food from around the world and learning a bit more about our popes and their favorites really makes me feel as if I’m dining with them. And now, with the Christmas addition, we can enjoy deliciousness from Advent through Epiphany.
Drink responsibly! And if you’re going to drink, drink blessedly. The saints were not heavy on alcohol consumption — exceptions being the miracles which saved others from poisoning, starvation or the like — but they, their contemporaries, and especially their devotees are known to have been familiar with or have passed down some excellent cocktails, mixes, and other brews. Drinking with the Saints and the accompanying Drinking with Saint Nick include beverages from around the world and a library’s worth of saint-bio content. My only downside is that if one wishes to taste several of these — given that the book generally follows the saint calendar (General Roman) — a pretty extensive liquor cabinet is required. So, sometimes, it’s fun to match up ingredients that one does have, and go from there. Still, you don’t have to have a Vegas-sized bar to get a lot out of these books. Even a handful of times a year makes drink mixing a special (and holy) occasion. One idea I have used is a saintly get-together with friends to try multiple recipes and read about the respective saint or feast. If each attendee could bring a specific bottle or ingredient, it cuts costs and makes for a nice time. Cheers!
The full title is Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and — my goodness! — this is a well-loved book in our kitchen. “Eat soup and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past” says the preface. Well, live 100 years or not, Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila Latourrette will make those years delightful for the palate of every sort of Catholic soup lover. With rainy-day soups, cold soups, Tuscan soups (my favorite), soups from India and soups from Russia, this book never fails to surprise and please. The soups are not complicated at all, thanks to the simple presentation and explanation even for recipes like osso buco. You can even search the ingredient-based index. There are multiple versions to look for. In mine, each recipe comes with a venerable quote, fact, tip, or piece of Catholic history. Close to 200 soups, this is the master volume for Catholic soup buffs.
Cooking With the Saints
I have two honorable mentions before leaving the reader to decide which is right for them. The first is Cooking with the Saints. Another home run from Sophia Press, this book is as universal and accessible as the Church triumphant. It follows the General Roman Calendar, explores the lives of the saints, and includes an incredible once-per-month multi-course meal that highlights a saint or feast.
Around the Year With the Von Trapp Family
The other honorable mention might not seem like a cookbook, but when the pages are fully explored, it really becomes an asset of the whole home, but especially the kitchen. Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family is a classic from 1955. But if you don’t want to pay more than $100 for the original publication — yes, that’s really what a good copy goes for — then you’ll be pleased to know that a beautiful updated version was published in 2018. For food and drink, enjoy favorites directly from the Von Trapp countertop and table: punches, Christmas stollen, soups, Passover unleavened bread, and so much more. It’s such a unique and well-written Catholic book, I find my nose in it throughout the year figuring how to make my own Advent wreath — and how to better celebrate feasts like the Epiphany and Candlemas, which are growing more and more into my Catholic faith as a convert.
Growing in holiness takes a lifetime. In the between moments, when we think we are stretched for time, these holy and saintly recipes bring us much closer to God and accelerate our appreciation for our heavenly friends. Enjoy!