Five Catholic Cookbooks That Belong On your Shelf

Catholic cuisine and drinking have experienced a new media revival recently.

Back in 2008, Jeff Young became interested in this relatively new podcasting thing and decided to try his hand with a podcast about cooking and Catholicism. The Catholic Foodie was born. A radio show, kids and a trip to the Holy Land later, Jeff Young is now the author of Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie – Middle Eastern Cuisine. (Listen to our podcast about his pilgrimage.)

Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie - Middle Eastern Cuisine

Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie – Middle Eastern Cuisine

Jeff’s book is a mouth-watering journey through both his pilgrimage and some of the cultural food he loves. The photos are fantastic (we borrowed a few for this post) and the recipes are just begging you to try them. I’ve heard that there are plans to turn this into a series.

At one of the early Catholic New Media Celebrations, someone said that while having a Catholic Foodie was great, there could never be a Catholic Drinkie. Fortunately, Sarah Vabulas rose to the occasion and started the Catholic Drinkie blog. Just this month she released her first book, The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home Brewed Evangelism. Be sure to listen to our podcast.

The Catholic Drinkie's Guide to Home Brewed Evangelism

The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home Brewed Evangelism

Sarah’s book focuses more on spirits than cuisine. Reading her book is like sitting down in pub with a bunch friends with a quality beer while discussing life and faith. Be prepared for a history of alcohol use in the Bible and beyond, recommendations on the best beers, how to brew your own, even in an apartment and how to share Catholicism with others without them running for the door.

Another book that was recently released is Drinking with the Saints – The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour. When I first opened the book I didn’t have any idea what to expect. It is certainly a handsome tome – hard cover, heavy and printed in America.

Drinking with the Saints - The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

Drinking with the Saints – The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

The majority of the book is a calendar of saints and feasts along with drink recipes that will carry you through the entire year, even Lent! While not as personable as the first two, this could easily be a book to regularly pull off the shelf “just to see what we can try with dinner”.

Father Leo Patalinghug, the priest who beat Bobby Flay in a cookoff, wrote a wonderful book called Grace Before Meals – Recipes and Inspirations for Family Meals and Family Life.

Grace Before Meals - Recipes and Inspirations for Family Meals and Family Life

Grace Before Meals – Recipes and Inspirations for Family Meals and Family Life

Father Leo wrote his book to bring families closer together at meal time. The book is divided into seasonal sections with prayers and questions (along with great recipes) for families to use at meal time. Yes, this is a cook book but it’s also a fun way to share family meals again if you have gotten out of the habit.

Before there was a revival in Catholic cooking books among younger Catholics and even before there was a wave of monastery cookbooks, there was A Continual Feast.

A Continual Feast - A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year

A Continual Feast – A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year

In a way, A Continual Feast could be seen as a Catholic Joy of Cooking. Almost 300 recipes for every season of the year grace it’s pages along with descriptions of Catholic customs and traditions. While A Continual Feast isn’t a slick “foodie” cookbook with Pinterest-quality pictures of food you will never get to look the same way, it is a fabulous cookbook to have on your counter and you will use it again and again throughout the years.

Until June 25th, 2015, all of our Catholic cookbooks are on sale!




How a Civilization Kills Itself, One Generation at a Time

On Monday our whole family went to Costco. We have nine kids under the age of twelve so there is almost a 100% chance that someone we don’t know will make a comment.

We stopped for lunch at the Costco food court and ordered pizza (about the best you can buy). Sitting at the table behind us was an elderly man and his daughter. He asked if all of the kids were ours and said that we didn’t have his grandparents beat.

His grandparents had twenty two children and lost four from disease. His parents had thirteen children and lost three to diphtheria. His dad was born in 1901 and only completed third grade.

This man had spent four years in the air force and had grown up during the depression with his nine siblings. He said that people today have no idea how tough things used to be. He then said that he had only had one child – he didn’t think he was educated enough to have any more. He also said that his brother had only had one child. After mentioning his father’s third grade education, thirteen children and growing up in the depression I was amazed at the contradictions in this man’s life that he couldn’t even see.

The problem is that his attitude about having children, in times far better than his ancestors, is the attitude of despair. Unfortunately, this attitude is shared by a majority of the population that doesn’t see the future as anything to bring life into. It’s generational suicide that only the hope in something beyond ourselves can cure.

Advent and Christmas Family Traditions

Tucson, Arizona. Land of saguaro cactus, red desert and the yearly gathering of the Gastellum clan for Christmas.

Night Before Christmas 1985

For as far back as I can remember, we would make the annual fourteen hour drive from Colorado to Arizona to spend one or two weeks with family in a continuous celebration that centered on the Faith, family and food.

But before we made the trip our family made its own Christmas cards. My Dad’s an artist and my Mom does beautiful calligraphy so we always had perfect cards to send out. Even farther back before Christmas my Mom would get each of us a Christmas ornament that had something to do with an event during the past year. One year I got a brass skier because I went skiing for the first time. Another year I got an ornament of Pikes Peak because I completed the half marathon ascent that summer. Ouch!

My Mom’s parents had lived in the same house ever since I could remember Christmas and later my aunt and uncle moved into the house three doors down. Several other aunts, uncles and various greats also lived in Tucson. I was even blessed with knowing my Great Grandmother. You know, the lady who was quick enough to catch mice by the tail?

There was always an Advent wreath on the dining room table and Christmas stockings always made the trip with us. For some reason, the felt Advent calendar that my mom made with the snap-on ornaments for each day almost never made the trip so we only got about two weeks completed and then had to add everything else after Christmas.

My mom collects Nativity sets and I think she got that from her mom. There were always a variety of Nativity sets around the house, missing baby Jesus, of course until Christmas day. Unfortunately, most sets are now made in China so our store isn’t able to offer a large selection of them.

Night Before Christmas 1984On Christmas Eve we always had a traditional Mexican dinner with homemade tamales, re-fried beans, calabasitas and the best tortillas anywhere. We would then all gather in the spare room and with a roaring fire in the fireplace and the blinds strategically cracked open, my grandfather would read The Night Before Christmas from a huge coloring book that all of us cousins had taken a hand at coloring. Just like clockwork every year Santa would be on the roof, shout down the chimney and  flash by the window before vanishing across the golf course behind their house. We would then all go back in to the living room and find our stockings full. My poor Uncle Steve, and some years Uncle John, frequently missed this momentous event. It’s amazing how things always came up right at that time.

Tumacacori Mission

Tumacacori Mission

Some years we would go down to the Tumacacori Mission to sing carols and see the luminarias lining the church and walls at night. My family has a long association with the Mission. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there and they met at the Catholic church just up the road in Tubac. One of my great-(great?)-aunts was scalped by Indians while her siblings hid in the mission bell tower. She survived.

When we were all younger and had the energy we would then go to Midnight Mass and then come home and open presents. I don’t know how my grandparents did it.

Christmas day was the time to go visit Uncle Mannie and Aunt Armida. It was also the first place that I got bragging rights for eating exotic food. Every Christmas Aunt Armida made Menudo and I loved it. Christmas dinner was a traditional turkey affair.

Saguaro cactus at sunsetDuring our time in Tucson we had three typical site seeing visits to make. The first, and most regular, was a trip to the Sonoran Desert  Museum. My Grandfather had been a park ranger most of his life and was a supporter of the museum. My favorite exhibits were always the prairie dog town and the geological exhibit with the earthquake detectors and the path through the “cave”.

The second visit was a guy trip to some dive for authentic Mexican food. I don’t remember the names of any of the places we went but you probably won’t find them in tourist books.

Some years we would make a trip to the Pima Air Museum or have a picnic at the Saguoro National Park. Yes, a picnic in December. Except for the one year it snowed and we had a snowball fight instead.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What fond memories do you have of Christmas?
The Quilt

The Quilt

Growing up, we regularly took trips to Craig to visit my grandparents and other relatives. Craig is a small, sleepy town in northwestern Colorado known, if at all, for mining and ranching. My great grandfather died of black lung from mining. My grandfather worked in the mines for many years and raised my father and siblings in Mt. Harris, a mining town, before the mines gave out and the town was sold off.

My grandfather bought several of the houses in Mt. Harris and, board by board, he and his family dismantled the homes and carted them to Craig where they were rebuilt into a new home with an attached apartment. My Dad’s job was to straighten the nails so they could be reused at the new location.

During my childhood we spent many Easters and other occasions at my grandparent’s home. Grandma was a wonderful cook and seamstress. She could sew dresses without patterns and no one ever turned down one of her pies.

Down three stairs from the living room with the wood stove, which I never remember ever being used, out the back door, through the yard, out the chain link gate and across the alley lived my Aunt Louise. Aunt Louise was all smile and glasses and had always been “old” in my grade school eyes. Her house was a “don’t touch” house with lots of glass objects and only one toy – a board game like chess with medieval figures that she kept in a compartment of her very heavy coffee table. She also had a most amazing kitchen gadget – a waffle iron so old that it had a woven fabric cord cover! I’m sure that it was older than me and probably is still working.

Aunt Louise’s back yard was the scene of regular picnics and cookouts. She had an outdoor grill built into a rock wall with a chimney topping it off. I am pretty sure that we weren’t supposed to climb on it but we did anyway. Her backyard was also home to a legendary garden that produced all kinds of wonderful vegetables for canning and her crab apple tree was the source of countless jars of jelly. When we would go choke cherry picking or up to Elkhead for fishing and cookouts Aunt Louise would sometimes come along.

When Paula and I were married fourteen years ago Aunt Louise couldn’t make it to the wedding but in spite of severe arthritis, made us this beautiful quilt. I don’t know anything about quilting except that there is a quilt shop around the corner from our store. Still, I can tell that a lot of love and time went into making it. It has kept us warm in the winter, covered several children’s beds and has occasionally done duty as a tent on living room camping expeditions.

Aunt Louise died peacefully today at 5pm. I think she was almost 96. She left us with many fond memories of Craig, her smiling hospitality and a quilt that will continue to warm us with her love for many years to come. We miss you Aunt Louise. Requiescat in pace.