“From the Feedbag” will be a weekly Grace Before Meals e- Blast that answers questions or responds to comments subscribers send to us. As our movement continues to grow, we want to make sure you have a voice. We will sincerely try to answer every question or respond to every comment, even if it may take a little time. Thank you for your past contributions. We value your input and ideas. So keep sending us your questions, sharing your comments, and being blessings to our movement. E-mail at email@example.com.
On Easter Sunday, I officially launched a Twitter Profile @Cooking_Priest. Click below to follow me!
On the Food Watch!
(Me with some Dominican Sisters in Guam. Check out the high-tech Sister to my right, sneaking a phone pic!)
In this e-mail Blast, I want to share some e-mails from our subscribed members. This month, I’m concentrating these questions and comments around dietary food concerns. Food is so interconnected to our psychology, biology, and even theology. Yes, God has something to say about food, and perhaps in these questions and my responses, we can learn more about God’s dietary plan for each of us! At the same time I’ll be peppering this Blast with just a bunch of random pictures, especially since I have such cache of them. Eventually I’ll have time to put them all together in some sort of album for all to see, but for now enjoy the responses and the photos.
(A deconstructed “meatless” meatloaf in NYC’s all natural vegetarian restaurant, “Zen,” located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. This was a recent Lenten friendly meal, but it was hardly penitential!)
Dear Fr. Leo,
I teach special needs sacramental prep. Have a young girl with multiple health issues including celiac’s disease. She has been hospitalized most of her young life. I hear there is an Abby that makes hosts that are celiac friendly. She and her family want to receive First Eucharist under both species. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. My pastor says he would like another opinion before granting this alternative. God bless.
In a quandary!
(Members of the Wayne Family of Harrisburg Pa., sporting their Mickey Mouse themed dishes. The dad – a kid at heart – has glasses, plates, and even silverware with Disney’s iconic character. If it helped them teach their kids to eat healthy, I’m all for it!)
First, congratulations to this family for taking serious the preparations for First Holy Communion! Here’s a great blog from a good friend who offers a mother’s reflection about raising kids and a recent First Holy Communion.
The issue of celiac disease is growing quite rampantly. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it could have to do with more and more hormones being present in our processed foods. In countries where the population eats more naturally, and with less preservatives and hormone additives, I know people suffer from celiac’s far less. Having said that, I‘m not going to go on a rampage against major processed foods, as these do serve a need, especially because they are often more affordable – even if they do tend to be “less healthy.”
(A Grace Before Meals Family Event in Texas! Mom gave each of the kids a homemade apron for Christmas, knowing that cooking with kids can help make them healthy kids.)
In the spiritual/theological response, I am very familiar with giving a special host prepared for those with celiac disease. These low gluten altar hosts are available from:
The Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Altar Breads Department
31970 State Highway P, Clyde, MO 64432
This issue has grown among our Catholic communities, as it raises questions regarding the proper form of communion hosts. These questions include whether we can use rice flour or other grain substitutes (other than wheat that is), substantial bread, and also whether or not we can replace alcoholic wine with grape juice as used in many protestant communities. This subject touches the heart of sacramental theology regarding the Eucharist, and it would be good for all Catholics to learn more about why we use unleavened bread and wine, as opposed to other types of artisanal breads and fruit juice.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: On a related topic, we only have a few spots left for the Napa Valley Retreat. To reserve your spot for this spectacular opportunity, contact Corporate Travel at 1-800-727-1999, extension 180. People have been asking if I’m going to have this retreat again? The most honest answer is, I can’t guarantee it. Because our itinerary is so specifically catered with exclusive world class opportunities, this could be a once in a lifetime event at this incredible price! Call NOW!)
Hopefully my response, my invitation to the Napa Valley Trip, and the link to learn more about the Eucharistic Requirements will be used to better understand why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. Jesus tells us that FOOD IS LOVE, and He proves it by turning the bread and wine into His Body and Blood to feed us. Now that’s worth learning about!
Hello Fr. Leo,
My name is Carlos, and I am a middle school religion teacher at a Catholic school In Hollywood, CA. I want to say thank you for the example that you give and the way that you have used your gifts to serve God and His people.
Over the past couple of years, I have shown some of your videos to my 6th through 8th graders as a way to show that they must use their gifts to serve God and that being a priest doesn’t mean living a boring life. I love when they say that priests can also have a good time and that holy doesn’t mean boring. This really gives me hope for their future discernment and strength in mine.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you in your ministry.
Dear Mr. Carlos,
First, that’s my dad’s and my brother’s name, and so I feel like we’re family already. I appreciate your encouraging words and how you are able to apply our apostolate to your classroom education.
(Some assistant chefs during an event in Bismark, ND. They helped cook for more than 300 families and friends who came on a cold, snowy night to learn more about the classroom of the kitchen table.)
The fact is Jesus used the dinner table as the most important “desk table.” Without going into too much theological depth in this short “thank you” message, I want to encourage you to go further and to inspire your children to speak with their parents about the importance of family meals.
For that reason, I want to make you an offer by providing you some copies of my first edition books to each of your students. One of our representatives will be in touch with you to coordinate how we can deliver these books to your students. Hopefully you’ll be able to encourage a “chapter” of Grace Before Meals at your school, with teachers eating with children in the classroom, and fostering a sense of family identity by having your children take these books to share with their parents.
(Me and Food Network Stars, Jamie and Bobby Deen! They learned to cook from their superstar mamma!)
Thanks for being such a dedicated member of our family!
We hope this little “thank you” gift will become homework that parents can use to help teach their children – a lesson your students will savor!
Hello Fr. Leo,
I was reading a recent email blast about portion control. My question to you: how do you get extended family members (like in-laws) to recognize their unhealthy eating habits (eating too much at meals, and also not eating the right things) in a charitable way? It seems they would want to change their bad habits since health wise they are not doing good. But then they do nothing to change themselves.
Thanks for your wonderful ministry! I hope you continue to change lives with what you do.
Good for you! Thanks for taking to heart the balanced approach necessary for encouraging people to eat more healthily, but not in an accusatory way. One problem I have with the “healthy eating” mentality is that it becomes a bit of a religion and devotees can sometimes be very legalistic in their approach to eating. Some can take it so far as to make people feel guilty if they eat something with a higher fat content. They make eating meals a sacrifice than a celebration.
(These young high school chefs will represent a local Maryland school in a national cooking competition this weekend. Pray for them as they have all the right stuff – skill, drive, talent, and maturing taste buds to put out some winning dishes!)
In order to approach this in a balanced way, I suggest you do the following: (1) pray about your motivation, especially since relationships with in-laws can be sensitive. Be sure that you want to help them improve their health rather than just be “right” and prove they are “wrong.” (2) Learn how to cook something super delicious, but also super healthy, so that you can gently introduce this dish to them. (3) Speak with your spouse about this in a prayerful way, so he can “intercede” and present your message to his family. (4) Demonstrate the joy of eating healthy, proper proportions and a balanced diet that doesn’t scoff at celebration foods, but instead makes healthy choices to practice the virtue of moderation. (5) And finally, always remember to pray for conversion of hearts, minds, and decisions. Even if your in-laws won’t eat the healthiest of foods, be sure you pray that they will receive the True Food that will bring them to everlasting life!
(Eucharist Congress Mount 2000 in February 2011 drew over 1,200 kids to pray before the Eucharist and to learn about the Faith. Be sure to join us next year on Valentine’s Weekend. Go to Mount2000.com for details.)
How did I do with this advice? Do you have suggestions for these members – our Grace Before Meals family? Your comments and questions help encourage our movement, so please post your comments below.
(Join me and Msgr. Nalty – my good friend who assisted in grilling my flank steaks on the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay – as we explore the theology of Transubstantiation of the Eucharist and the transformation of our culture.)
Welcome to the most important day of the Liturgical Year! I pray that you and your family have a wonderful FEAST. On the menu: the victorious supper of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and gives us new life!
Today is truly for family, food, fun and most importantly FAITH! Today’s Patalinghug Family menu, is baked ham, egg rolls, Filipino noodles (called pancit) and of course a bunch of other delicious things – like CHOCOLATE, which I gave up for Lent.
And for fun, my mom stuffed plastic eggs with cold hard cash! You better believe, I’m going to get my “game on” and find some money for the poor box!
Enjoy your day and will talk with you soon.
AND, be sure to welcome me to the TWITTER WORLD, as today is my first TWEET!
Yes, call me a “niTWITter”! Follow me @”cooking_priest”.
Faithful Foodie Adventures is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world. Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expand faith and satisfy our culinary sensibilities. If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know. E-mail me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(My view at breakfast.)
Who could ever imagine that our movement would reach the Micronesian Island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean! But it did. By chance, the Superintendent of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Guam saw the Bobby Flay Steak Fajita Throwdown! during a trip to California.
After a quick Google search of my name, she found our site, e-mailed us, and worked with our Grace Before Meals team to put together a four-day event for this beautiful island nation. It was a perfect place to share our message.
(After a school assembly presentation.)
This island paradise, however, has its own struggles. I recently learned that Guam is a destination spot for people seeking a simple and speedy divorce. People from all over come to Guam just to have their marriages declared legally separated. How sad! But for that reason I was asked to host a “date night” cooking event and to share the message of the importance of the family meal as a way to strengthen the ties of our family. It also gave me even greater inspiration to finish my second book, Spicing Up Married Life – yes that same book that’s been in the works for quite some time.
(I recruited the assistance of a recently engaged couple to help make two versions of a pasta dish – a spicy and a mild version. Guess who made which version?)
While there I learned Guam suffers from an above average suicide rate for teenagers. Guam has a population of a little more than 200,000 people, but I was told that 30 teenagers committed suicide last year. One suicide in a million is too many, but on a small island the loss of just one person to this tragedy can be even more painful. This tour provided me the venue to share the hopeful message of Grace Before Meals. This study shows the teen suicide rate can actually be reduced when families share a regular family meal. How is that possible? It’s common sense, really. The table provides a place where families can nurture each other, show their love for each other, and most importantly, feed each other with the encouragement and attention which all teenagers desperately crave.
(Statue at a local cemetery. May Our Lady’s prayers help bring about God’s mercy for all of those who have died.)
I not only had a chance to work with families, I also had the pleasure to share my work as a seminarian professor and host of an international movement with the Archbishop of Guam, the chancery staff, and the seminarians of the Archdiocese.
(Left to Right: Cynthia, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, the Vice Rector, the Archbishop, me, and Rector of the seminary.)
I can’t forget the stop with some of the retired religious sisters who gathered to hear my story, a brief theological talk about the dignity of women, and of course a recipe swap afterwards.
(I never had so many “moms” at one time!)
As you can tell, it was a very busy tour!
But the most important reason why I was invited to share the Grace Before Meals movement was to help fund raise for teens preparing for World Youth Day in August. These events not only raised significant dollars for their group of youngsters, it also spiritually prepared them to “feast” on the bounty that comes from the international event that gathers millions of young people who hunger for faith.
(Some of the youth and young adult coordinators from the Padre Pio Youth Group.)
Hunger, however, was not a feeling I had while I was in Guam. Guamanians are known for their very hearty foods shared with family and friends. On a culinary level Guam is known as the “Spam Capital of the World.” I tried to find time to create some special dish with this unique recipe – bringing me back to my childhood days – but opted instead to taste the more local cuisine at some great restaurants.
My first official meal was breakfast at a local family hotspot called Shirley’s. After a 25 hour flight and only a few hours of sleep, I needed a big Guam breakfast, consisting of garlic fried rice, eggs, and Philippine longoniza – a sweet sausage link that has just enough spice to make your lips smack!
(Breakfast at Shirley’s: Fried rice, eggs over easy, pan fried steak, and a sweet sausage called longoniza.)
I also visited a new restaurant called Delmonico – a hip diner bar – located near the city center. They offered delicious Italian influenced food with the twist of an upscale bar. The chef made me a special dish – local green eggplant Parmesan tower served with linguine in a nicely flavored marinara. Despite the small kitchen, and the major competition of restaurant chains, this restaurant offered unique food in a setting with a fun-filled vibe.
(Green eggplant Parmesan tower.)
On such a small island, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many restaurants, and in my few days, was able to sample so many types of food.
(Chamorro Sampler from Meskla.)
It was there that I sampled the local flavors such as “Keleguen” – a raw preparation of fish “cooked” in the acids of lemon juice and flavored with coconut milk. The chef also prepared a rice porridge called “Chalakiles” – similar to our Grace Before Meals recipe of “arroz caldo.” I also sampled and correctly guessed the different flavoring sauces called “Finadene.” I’ve been told these are brought out for every dinner as a way to develop the layers of Chamorro foods.
(Keleguen sauces – from left to right: tuba (a coconut liquor), soy, anchovy, lemon, and denanche (a coconut infusion).)
The dinner at Meskla was so delicious I returned for a second meal, especially since the owner and Guam’s celebrity chef invited me to try his other seafood specialties, like parrot fish and a remarkably unique dish of coconut crab.
(The sous-chef, me, and Meskla’s celebrity chef and owner.)
As a real “crab-loving Marylander” I was impressed with this crab that eats coconuts, which in turn flavors its meat. Once this “coconut crab” has eaten its fill, the stomach, like a spider’s sack, bloats with a delicious creamy row that can be eaten when squeezed over rice, or as a base for a broth. Eating any shellfish is difficult, but this required pulling a hidden “chord” before you could get to the creamy fat and pick out the meat from the claws. Preparation for this was simple: steam in some coconut milk, a medley of onions, green beans, and cherry tomatoes, served with steamed white rice. Eating this dish does require some effort and great humility, as it can get messy! I guess it’s Guam’s version of “finger licking good!”
While all these meals were delicious, the most touching came on my last night. Though tired and ready for sleep, the hosts invited me to their home where the teens put out a pot-luck dinner off all their specialties. This “last supper” provided a great conclusion to the trip.
(One of the Permanent Deacons who assisted me during my trip, along with his wife and children.)
Guam lived and breathed our message: food, faith, family, and fun.
After my trip to the Philippines that I’ll take with my family this December, I just may have to take the two-hour flight and visit Guam on my way back to America. After all, because of the international date line, “Guam is where America’s day begins!”
FYI: There are only a few spots left on our NAPA VALLEY wine retreat and tour. Call Diana George at Corporate Travel Service at 1-800-727-1999, extension 180, or e-mail her at email@example.com, to reserve the few remaining spots now!
Have you been to Guam? Have you ever eaten any Guam dishes or spam? Do you have any fun, quick Spam recipes? Post your comments below, and help encourage our movement.
Menu Inspiration gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement Grace Before Meals. If you try this recipe, let us know what you think. If you have a special recipe that inspires the family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community. Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome! Post your comments below.
Holy Week Menu
(High Altar of Cathedral of Mary our Queen, Baltimore, Md)
Next week, also known to Christians as Holy Week, commemorates the epic events in Jesus Christ’s life here on Earth. The Paschal Mystery begins with Jesus entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, then the Institution of the Eucharist and the role of service demonstrated on Holy Thursday, the culmination of Christ’s suffering on Good Friday, and of course, the Light of hope inflamed on Saturday’s Easter Vigil in preparation for Easter Sunday! This is the best week of the year for faithful foodies, at least in my culinary cultured perspective.
For Palm Sunday I’ve created a pasta that incorporates hearts of palm – something to help us commemorate how the palms in Jesus’ time represented victory and life. The palms were used for building things, protection from the day’s heat, and even the leaves were used for medicine!
(A different type of “Palm” leaf, but I used this one to wrap and steam fish. Delicious!)
On Holy Thursday we see the role Jesus took on as waiter and servant – even to the point of wearing an “apron,” which is one reason why we offer our exclusive Grace Before Meals apron to you – a great gift for loved ones or yourself. It’s a reminder that we are all servants of God’s generous blessings.
(Michigan Event. Mom was so proud her son “helped” me make the pasta dish — the first time he ever cooked!)
On Good Friday we see another unique aspect of Christ’s life: he thirsts! He will say that as part of His last words on Earth. And obviously, gall* won’t satisfy what he really craves: our faith!
*Gall is the bile/vinegary substance soaked up in the sponge given to Jesus on the cross
Finally, the sad events of Good Friday culminate in an intensely beautiful and scripture-filled prayer on Holy Saturday, when the Lamb of God conquers the grave, as we will hear proclaimed in the Exsultet Prayer.
These Feast Days will no doubt make it busy for you and your family. But if you can take extra time to celebrate with the Church Family, I’m sure you will be nourished, satisfied, and consoled!
(Me and some members of the youth group who served a dinner during my presentations in Guam.)
Perhaps one way to encourage your family to come to these celebrations is to make a special meal with my exclusive recipes! These will never replace the banquet God prepares for us at the altar. But these recipes – appropriate for this season of Lent – can certainly provide just enough family time to have discussions about what’s happened in Jesus’ life. This way, as a family, you can talk about what truly makes next week the Holiest and most celebratory week of the year, especially for faithful foodies!
PALM SUNDAY RECIPE: Penne della Palma! (A creamy Palm Sunday Special)
I created this recipe specifically for the ABC World News Report. Hearts of palm, oftentimes used in salad, are instead used as a sweet and tart vegetable base for a creamy pasta sauce.
Penne della Palma (serves 3-4)
1 pound penne pasta
1 can hearts palm
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
¼ cup parsley, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
½ cup brandy
½ cup starchy pasta water
½ cup whipping cream
½ Tbs salt and pepper (or to taste)
Instructions: Boil pasta until al dente. Drain water, but reserve ½ cup of starchy pasta water. Drain water from palms and cut into ¼-inch pieces. In a large pan, heat olive oil and butter, then saute garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and palm. Add cheese and breadcrumbs, and combine. Add brandy, water, and cream (ATTENTION: cooking with liquor is flammable). Add pasta and mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese for more flavor.
HOLY THURSDAY MENU: Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
(Mushroom and red wine sauce.)
Remember Holy Thursday’s meal is all about service, demonstrated by how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. This celebration also commemorates the institution of the Eucharist – Jesus’ Sacramental Presence in the Bread and Wine. On this day it will be a good idea to really focus on the food of bread and wine. And perhaps also teach your young children how wine can be used as a “gift” and how wine can be abused by people. For that reason, I want to encourage people to participate in an upcoming Napa Valley wine pilgrimage, where we will discuss “transubstantiation” and the theological implications of wine in the Old and the New Testament.
(Vineyards in Napa Valley.)
This wine-based mushroom recipe can also help create a simple side dish to complement any protein-based main course, such as chicken, beef, or pork.
2 cups red wine
1 glove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 packages button mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
Instructions: In a saucepan large enough to fit all the mushrooms, heat the red wine, garlic, and rosemary sprig until the wine comes to a light boil. Add the butter and tomato paste, and stir until sauce thickens. Add the mushrooms, and mix until all is fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and remove from heat. The liquid from the mushrooms will help loosen the sauce. To make the sauce more wet, add a ½ cup of water, and season with salt and pepper.
NOTE: Be sure to speak with your children about how wine is important to the Christian culture and about how Thursday’s celebration elevates the wine to a supernatural level!
GOOD FRIDAY MENU: Tuna, Caper, and Peppercorn Fusilli Pasta
(Regular can of tuna transformed into something delicious and Lent- Friendly.)
Here’s a tuna pasta that beats the pants off traditional tuna sandwiches. While this is a tasty little treat, it definitely satisfies the Lenten requirements. It’s a simple, not expensive seafood dish, and it’s perfect for your family. It uses inexpensive ingredients, infused with some inspired thoughts, that make it a meal worth celebrating with children who, like Jesus, thirst for faith.
To make this little can of albacore come to life I created my version of Italian tuna pasta that I ate in Florence during my seminary days. I’ve made it for several other people, and they say it’s definitely something to celebrate. But it’s still in the Lenten rulebook for fasting, and it sure beats the texture and blandness of those sandwiches!
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb box dried fusilli pasta, boiled and cooked al dente
2-3 cans albacore tuna
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh capers
1 tsp green peppercorns, in water
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup tomato sauce
Sauté garlic in pan of hot olive oil. Add tuna (including the liquid in the can), capers, and peppercorns. Mix until tuna is warm. Add tomato sauce, and let simmer for 1 minute. Add pasta, and allow some of the pasta water to help “cream” the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. NOTE: If you prefer to eat tuna less warm and prefer it room temperature, simply wait until you add the pasta to add the tuna. But be sure to drain the juices as it could “clash” with the rest of the ingredients if not incorporated with heat.
EASTER MENU: Glorious Lamb!
(Pan roasted and oven-finished lamb chops.)
Finally, in preparation for Easter, treat your family to a not-so-traditional lamb dish. This is one I really enjoy making. It’s a special dish that begins with “frenched” lamb chops. So while this is something you can’t use to feed a large dinner party, it’s definitely worth the time and money for your immediate family on this Easter Sunday’s Feast of Feasts!
Pan-Roasted Lamb Chops (Serves 2 people)
6 rib rack of Baby Lamb Chops, frenched (i.e., bone is cleaned to create a “handle,” and trimmed fat is optional. I leave the fat on as it adds great flavor and texture, but trimming the fat off the “back” of the chops is up to you.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Italian season breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
(Frenched Lamb Chops first sautéing in the pan, and will be finished off in the oven.)
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine breadcrumbs, rosemary, and garlic on a large plate and set aside. Season lamb chop with salt and pepper, and then coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, making sure all parts have some oil on each. Dredge chops and coat with the breadcrumb mix. Heat remaining olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Sear chops on all sides for 1 minute each. Put on an oven-safe rack, and place in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes for a rare to medium temperature, 20 minutes for medium well. Remove from the oven, and let meat rest for about 5-10 minutes before cutting it into individual chops. These chops will definitely raise our Lenten-numbed taste buds back to life!
I hope these recipes help satisfy some of your physical hungers as the Church’s celebration truly satisfies our spiritual hungers. Also, thank you for your patience as we continue to make adjustments on our website, especially in order to gain full access to all of these exclusive recipes. If you have any recipe ideas to share, please send those along with pictures to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us pray:
Father, inspire us in this coming week, so that everything we do, speak, and pray reflects the wonder of Your love for us. Bless families so that this week will truly reflect the holiness, the hop,e and the glory that comes from Your goodness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Crucifix in Costa Rican Church.)
Tell me what you’re going to make for Holy Week or Easter. Any recipes, tips, questions or comments, please share below. Your comments and questions help fuel our Grace Before Meals Team’s imagination and encouragement. Post your comments or questions by clicking here!
I very much enjoy it when my speaking requests take me to great cities or towns known for food destinations. Recently I was at New Melle, MO about 40 minutes west of St. Louis.
No doubt, St. Louis is a great eating destination! St. Louis style ribs – need I say more!?! On the way to New Melle, it was recommended that I stop in a town called Chesterfield where a 40 year old institution called “Annie Gunns,” a long time smoke house, serves up delicious high end foods with very casual and flavor packed flare. Ironically however I ate at the restaurant on a Friday during Lent. I resisted ordering any meats (their specialty), but must say the seafood was so deliciously prepared I didn’t miss the eating meat – at least that much!
Another St. Louis stop – an original frozen custard factory called Ted Drewes. I ordered the Southern candied pecans and caramel. I gave up chocolate for Lent, but I still think I broke my Lenten fast with this delicious treat.
People from all backgrounds, young and old, lined up to sample the deliciously cold flavors on this seasonably warm late Spring day.
While the great big city foods is worth any trip, I admit the greatest satisfaction for me during these trips come from hanging out with God’s good people, such as those from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in New Melle. The pastor – a big foodie himself, and the Director of Religious Education invited me to present our movement’s message that truly feeds the body, mind and spirit.
It was also very encouraging to meet some great folks and new foodie friends.
It was perhaps providential that Annie Gunn’s smoke house specialty store had a great motto that seemed to sum up my quick visit to New Melle, MO.
Thanks to Fr. Stoltz and Sean Mueller, Laura Orf and Chef Brian for hosting a great event. Thanks to all of those who came out for this two day event. Be sure to register up for the free weekly email blasts and sign up to join the fun on facebook. Let me know what you thought about the food and our message. Tell me what special meal you’ll be preparing for your family, either from the book or from your own special collection. Please post your comments below.
Dinner Discussions from the Grace Before Meals movement gives “food for thought” for your family meals by combining some aspects of faith, food and family fun. Hopefully this little article gives you something to talk about with your family at the kitchen table – a blessed place that enhances family communion. If you have a comment, question, or a topic you would like to discuss, be sure to contact us at www.gracebeforemeals.com.
Pink in the Middle
(Roasted Lamb – medium rare with sautéed greens.)
Pink in the middle, at least for a nice juicy steak, describes a medium rare, tender and juicy – and in my opinion – a perfectly cooked piece of meat. However, there’s another type of “pink in the middle,” which many Catholic Christians experienced this past Sunday. Laetare Sunday – a day when priests often make a joke about having to wear “pink” vestments. Although the official color is in fact “rose” (not pink), it’s almost humorous that priests have to prove their confidence in their own masculine identity by wearing this bright and festive liturgical apparel.
(Pope Benedict XVI wearing “rose” colored vestments for Laetare Sunday.)
But what does this color mean, and how does this relate to our food movement?
These vestments are worn only twice in a liturgical calendar year – during Advent and Lent. During Advent we call the celebration when the priest wears rose-colored vestments “Gaudete Sunday,” which means, “rejoice.” Similarly during Lent, we call this past Sunday, “Laetare Sunday,” which also means to be happy and rejoice!
In both cases these unique Sunday celebrations fall in the middle of the season, when priests vest in purple – a color that evokes penance, such as the Lenten practice of fasting, increased prayers and almsgiving. The lighter, happier pinkish-colored vestment worn in the middle of the season reminds Christians that despite our Lenten practices, we have reason to rejoice. We’re halfway through the 40 days of the desert! This lighter and brighter color is a sign of life, happiness, and joy!
(Happy Mount Students! I recently cooked for the student body at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. The lines – as you can see – were quite long. They were happy for some tasty variety!)
The foodie side of me, however, sees this “pink in the middle” of Lent as an invitation to consider another perspective – a culinary perspective. A pink center assures that a cut of beef is not overcooked, tough, or dry. Whereas a well-done steak would be grayish brown, the pink color indicates a juicy and tender center. Some even compare eating overcooked beef to chewing on leather. It’s obviously NOT my preference for cooking beef! There is literally no life blood or tenderness in it. A pink center, cooked medium rare, guarantees goodness, flavor, and above all tenderness!
(Steak salad over sautéed spinach and topped with blue cheese crumbles.)
That’s the connection: tenderness. There is a great Bible quote from the Canticle of Zaccharia that says, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace!” (Luke 1:77-79) Yes, we need more of God’s tender compassion!
Yes, this color – both in food and in liturgy – reminds us of our call to be more tender with one another. We may be tough on the outside. This tough world sometimes demands it! But deep down inside, we all can admit the soft spot that makes us capable of loving one another with gentleness.
(A “tender” side of me. Me with some Grace Before Meals friends from Fort Meade Army Base after a recent event. I’ve got a real "soft spot" for babies!)
Are we a little pink in the middle? Or have our busy lives turned us dark and gray, spent, overcooked, dried up, and hard? This liturgical season also encourages our Grace Before Meals family to consider how tenderly we treat the people around our dinner table. Do we encourage our young children to be appropriately tender and sensitive to others, while maintaining the balance to make sure they can take the heat of the frying pan of life?
To help us find that “tender” spot in our lives, I offer these cooking techniques as an analogy for our spiritual life. One way to achieve tenderness is to pound the meat out with a mallet. These little thumps are like the normal daily challenges we face and accept as a way to mold our character. When you feel like you’re being pounded on by the world, it may be God’s way of making us tender and compassionate to others? Another way to assure tenderness is to sear the meat over high heat, which locks in juices. In a way, the burning fire of the Holy Spirit can do the same for us if we ask God to send the Spirit into our lives. And yet another way to assure tenderness is to cook a piece of meat sous-vide. Sous-vide is a French technique of placing the protein in an airtight plastic bag and cooking in a warmed water immersion circulator for a long time. For me, that would be similar to spiritually immersing ourselves in the waters of Baptism as a reminder that we are always God’s special children, whom He looks on with tenderness.
(Searing seasoned meat in a slightly oiled but highly heated cast iron skillet for 1 minute on each side, and then finishing off in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes creates a beautiful crust and pink tender inside!)
Parents can ask children if they know what tenderness means and how to manifest this important human characteristic. I consider the recent debacle of a high school ice hockey game that turned into a big brawl, seriously injuring many players. There have been more episodes of young women getting arrested due to lewd conduct and gang-type fighting. Police reports tell us the major cause of accidents is due to road rage, i.e., a lacking respect and gentleness while driving! These examples force us to consider what’s happening to us on the inside? Are we being hardened and toughened to the point of being incapable of love or being lovable?
(Archbishop Dolan of New York City, with his aunt and mother after a radio interview on Sirius 159/XM117. Even though he’s the powerful Archbishop of one of the most prominent cities in the world, he’s also still a “mamma’s boy” – a real sign of his strength and devotion to his family!)
We’re now in the middle of Lent – a time to return to the tenderness of God! Now that we’re halfway to Easter, we can ask just how “pink” we are in the middle?
(Me eating Bobby Flay’s Skirt Steaks after the Throwdown! taping. Look at the beautiful pink color of that beef! And notice how happy I am to eat it!)
Let us pray: Father in Heaven, help us remember our call to be more like You, gentle, loving, and kind. When we find our hearts turning hard like stone, may this season of Grace remind us to rejoice, knowing that our struggles in this life won’t last forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please tell us what you think of this dinner discussion. Have you talked with your children about this important human/relational quality of gentleness, and what do you say without sounding “corny”? Do you have any other cooking tips to help keep proteins tender and juicy? Your comments and questions are both helpful and encouraging to me and our Grace Before Meals Family. Please post your comments BELOW.
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