The perfect cookbook for every sacrament

Growing up, I had the privilege of learning from my grandmother in her kitchen. The reverence and patience she expressed for simple aspects of cooking taught me that the preparation of any meal can be an art form. It’s similar to how the sacraments connect us with God, allowing for physical and spiritual community among a group of gathered people.

Below I compiled a list of cookbooks, from various Catholic chefs and bakers, and paired each with a corresponding sacrament. From your confirmation saint’s favorite dish, to comforting soup for those suffering from an illness, I hope these recipes serve as ways to find God in yourself, others and your kitchen.

From your confirmation saint’s favorite dish, to comforting soup for those suffering from an illness, these recipes can serve as ways to find God in yourself and in your kitchen.

Baptism

To mark the celebratory moment an individual enters into the Catholic Church, look no further than the Rev. Leo Patalinghug’s cookbook, Grace Before Meals. This book not only provides over 30 recipes, organized by season and the liturgical calendar, but also supplies essays, Scripture reflections and guidance for developing healthy family dynamics.

In 2012, Father Patalinghug defeated Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay” in a competition for the best steak fajitas. Find this award-winning dish along with other healthy, delicious and straightforward recipes that are well suited for family weeknights filled with homework, sports, rehearsals and other extracurricular commitments. With passages focused on parent-child relationships, this book embodies baptism’s welcoming of God’s children into his kingdom. It is a must read (and cook) for young families, according to The Catholic Foodie: “Father Patalinghug shows that mealtime is the perfect setting for discussing the major issues all families face.”

Confirmation

In preparation for receiving confirmation, individuals often choose a confirmation name, taken from a saint whom they admire and with whom they identify. The name not only serves as a reminder of one’s commitment to God, but the saint’s life provides a role model to look up to. One way to celebrate this devotion is by replicating your confirmation saint’s favorite dish with Cooking with the Saints. Each recipe also provides a biography of the saint so that readers can learn all about their namesakes. Find a recipe to make cottage pie for St. Patrick, a crepe cake for St. Joan of Arc or basque lamb stew for St. Ignatius of Loyola. This cookbook is a wonderful way to learn more about your confirmation name while mastering new skills in the kitchen.

Eucharist

Calling all work-from-homers turned bread bakers during the Covid-19 pandemic! To celebrate the receiving of Holy Communion let us look to the Rev.Dominic Garramone, aka “The Bread Monk,” with his cookbook The Breadhead Bible: Father Dominic’s Favorite Recipes. With recipes and techniques for beginners to bread making pros, Father Dominic’s broad selection of recipes, including funnel cake and soft pretzels, has something for everyone. If your little one is to receive the sacrament for the first time, consider including them for the bread making activity. Measuring, mixing and kneading the dough provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss with them what it means to receive the body and blood of Christ.

If your little one is to receive the sacrament for the first time, consider including them for the bread making activity.

Your home will quickly smell of freshly baked bread and inhaling that comforting scent can serve as a reminder of how Jesus gathered and comforted his disciples around the table during the Last Supper. If you are looking for a unique way to celebrate Holy Communion while bonding with loved ones and learning new kitchen skills, this book is for you.

Penance

Reconciliation provides an opportunity for us to improve and repair our relationships with ourselves, with others and with God. And so much of how we interact with these three elements of life happen in the process of making food, from the way we harvest crops to how we nourish ourselves and others. Sophie Egan’s How To Be A Conscious Eater is a necessary and helpful guide to how we improve our interactions with ourselves, others, the planet and God. Though Egan does not explicitly focus on how a Catholic faith calls us into right relationship with food, one suspects she may be somewhat influenced by her father, the journalist Timothy Egan, and his complex experience with Catholicism.

Sophie Egan’s How To Be A Conscious Eater is a necessary guide to how we improve our interactions with the planet and God.

In her book, Egan refers to what she calls “the Conscious Eater Checklist,” a method of discerning what to purchase and cook that actually embodies the idea of cura personalis, or care for the whole person. The checklist consists of asking if the food is “good for you, good for others, [and] good for the planet.” Her guidance on how to right this relationship provides Catholics with ample opportunities to implement new routines and lifestyles. For example, when she discusses the use of plastic, Egan encourages readers to go “plastic free” for Lent as a way to reconcile with the Earth.

Though she does not provide traditional recipes, Egan does give examples of foods to incorporate into your diet, like nuts to snack on and overnight oats for breakfast, and which seafood to prioritize at check-out. Egan also addresses when to buy organic and how to minimize the risk of cancer when cooking on the grill, serving as an ideal companion to righting our relationships with ourselves, others, the planet and God.

Anointing of the Sick

The Secret of Jesuit Soupmaking: A Year of Our Soups provides an array of recipes to cook for those receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In this cookbook, Rick Curry, S.J., (1943-2015) takes readers through each step of soup making. He begins with an explanation of the tools in his Jesuit community’s kitchen and how their simplicity is integral to the quality of the soup. He continues with tutorials for various stocks, from vegetable to beef, followed by a year’s worth of soup recipes to put those broths in.

Readers might consider Father Curry’s mom’s favorite and his own “ultimate comfort food”: mushroom and tomato soup.

The essays that accompany each recipe provide spiritual nourishment to sustain caretakers of sick loved ones. Readers might consider Father Curry’s mom’s favorite and his own “ultimate comfort food”: mushroom and tomato soup. You can even bring a piece of America Media into your kitchen as Father Curry makes mention of his time living at the America house and the French Vegetable soup he often made for his community there. As he writes in the cookbook’s introduction, “soup is comforting, because our palates have memories, and soup can remind us of the security we felt around the family table in childhood.” Next time you are looking to provide someone this security, step into the kitchen with Father Curry.

Marriage

Under the guidance of the one and only Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, you can learn how to prepare and cultivate the joy of a wedding in your own kitchen. Whether you want to provide a snack for the bridal party on the celebratory day, or want to try your hand at baking the wedding cake itself, Baking with the Cake Boss: 100 of Buddy’s Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets not only contains delicious recipes but also has helpful instructions for the most masterful preparation. From butter cookies and eclairs to wedding cakes and extravagant decorating techniques, this book provides all the resources you need to make the day even more special (and maybe start your own bakery and television series as well).

The Italian-American baker has spoken out about how his Catholic faith has guided his life. In the spirit of giving to those experiencing poverty, Carlos Bakery, Valastro’s establishment, donates loaves of bread to St. Francis Church in Hoboken every year for the feast of St. Anthony. The Sacrament of Matrimony unifies two people, joining in a covenant with God deserves an equally sweet and joyful treat, and the Cake Boss can teach you how.

Holy Orders

To celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, The Vatican Cookbook provides 500 years worth of recipes for meals that have proved popular at the Vatican. Newly ordained priests and deacons can connect, via taste buds, to leaders of the church like St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, since this cookbook has chapters dedicated to the cuisines of their heritage. Give Francis’ Argentinian empanadas a try or maybe John Paul II’s favorite pierogi.

Beyond these three popes, this cookbook is filled with Vatican history and culture, presented by the Vatican Swiss Guards, making it a worthy resource for those called to positions of leadership in the Catholic Church.

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