Liturgical Cookbooks

This is a slightly revised version of a post from 2007.

Liturgical Year reading, writing, and cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I admit my focus has changed somewhat since our sons’ food allergy diagnosis, but I still love reading the traditions and foods connected to the liturgical feasts and seasons, otherwise known to me as “liturgical cooking” (but just to clarify that I’m not cooking or creating “liturgy” but being inspired by the liturgy).

Why do I do enjoy liturgical cooking? Because I can incorporate symbolism, culture, history, and catechesis in all different varieties through the foods I serve at the table. Meals are natural conversation starters. They are the perfect place to start discussing the liturgical season, saint or feast of the day, the connections with the food and the liturgy of the Church.

Of course, this is not an original thought; liturgical cooking has been done throughout the centuries. I like being in touch with Catholics who lived centuries before me, who used foods in celebrating for the feasts of the liturgical year. Cooking for the liturgical year follows the definition of Catholic — it is universal, and spans the globe and time.

When I first started doing this, most of these ideas were only by word of mouth or in cookbooks. With the internet, liturgical cooking is common, and the ideas are everywhere.

But I’m a bit old-fashioned and love to refer to actual books for inspiration. Some of my favorite liturgical cookbooks are listed below. I’ve marked the out-of-print ones with OOP, and put them in order by publication date. These are the standbys; this list is not even complete, just highlights:

1) OOP Cooking for Christ: Your Liturgical Cookbook by Florence Berger, my first and favorite. This is the first liturgical cookbook in the USA, first printed in 1949. A radically revised version is available from NCRLC; I recommend sticking to the original. Why is it my favorite cookbook? It’s not that I use all the recipes in the book, although I have my favorites, but I LOVE her writing. She gives a picture of her kitchen and her family over the year; it’s written in a style of a friend sharing her stories at the kitchen table over a cuppa.

2) Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, copyright 1951. It has been recently reprinted. You can view the .pdf file or .txt file. This cookbook gives wonderful historical and cultural perspectives of different saints and feasts related to the kitchen; it is well-researched and very interesting.

3) OOP Catholic Cook Book: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes , copyright 1965, edited by William Kaufman. Recipes kitchen-tested by Sister Mary Ursula, O.P.; Catholic advisors: Francis X. Weiser, S.J., and Brother Herman E. Zaccarelli, C.S.C.; Preface by Robert I. Gannon, S.J. This is a wonderful collection recipes from so many different cultures for most feast days of the liturgical year; including days of fasting and abstinence. Not every recipe gives background, but there is some interesting information. This is more of a traditional cookbook than the other preceding books.

4) OOP The Cook’s Blessings by Demetria Taylor, copyright 1965. This cookbook is one of the first liturgical cookbooks that mixes historical/cultural stories and recipes but also incorporates modern food ideas for feasts. Some of the recipes are dated (like 50-60s cooking), such as aspic, gelatin molds, and MSG. But even with all that, it’s very enjoyable and realistic. Included are ideas for Sacramental celebrations (baptisms, first communions, weddings), fasting and abstaining ideas, and other family and party ideas.

5) OOP My Nameday — Come for Dessert, by Helen McLoughlin, Liturgical Press, 1962. This is a great reference book for patron saints, symbols, and prayers and wonderful symbolic desserts to use for saints throughout the year, so as to celebrate a nameday for your family members. She also wrote 3 pamphlets, which are also out of print, but my some of my favorite references, including recipes for liturgical cooking:

a) OOP Family Advent Customs (.pdf file), Liturgical Press, 1954, 1979.

b) OOP Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home (.pdf file), Liturgical Press, 1954.

c) OOP Family Customs: Easter to Pentecost, Liturgical Press, 1956, 1979. Her Easter pamphlet is not online in entirety. An internet search for the title and author will show that CatholicCulture.org has excerpts of this book.

6) A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Vitz, copyright 1991. This is the best in-print liturgical cookbook. The author has wonderful descriptions of the traditions connected with the saints and feast days. The book covers the temporal and sanctoral cycle, that is, both the seasons and the saints. And the recipes are not only for desserts, but practical meals and traditional dishes for feast days and family days.

7) Cooking With the Saints editor Ernst Schuegraf, copyright 2001. This is a beautiful hardcover cookbook with lavish pictures of each recipe and artwork for each saint.

Any cookbook has the potential to be a liturgical cookbook, as you can get inspiration from any recipe. The following cookbooks aren’t Catholic in origin, but have recipes and ideas from different cultures for different feast days:

1) Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays by Helen Barolini, copyright 2000. Each month she shares descriptions of celebrations of Italian feast . And the recipes are delicious.

2) Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions by Betsy Oppenneer. This book contains bread recipes from all over the world for different feasts. It has a great variety of recipes from many different cultures, with wonderfully detailed instructions and illustrations.

3) OOP Feasting for Festivals by Jan Wilson, copyright 1990. I think this is Anglican, but there are wonderful recipes and crafts from a British viewpoint.

4) Festive Food of Ireland by Darina Allen is back in print. I bought a copy when I was in Ireland over 12 years ago. It’s a beautiful little book, decorated with Celtic illustrations and great photos and the recipes all have accompanying descriptions of Irish customs and recipes.

The followingbooks related to living the liturgical year in the home have recipes, but are not dedicated cookbooks:

I have many others, but this post is already overwhelming. I enjoy all of Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s cookbooks; maybe that should be another post. Ethel Marbach (Pochocki) had a few pamphlets and Holy Housewifery Cookbook that are extremely enjoyable to read. And there are two cookbooks, The Lenten Kitchen and The Advent Kitchen by Barbara Benjamin and Alexandria Damascus Vali that contain some healthy and tasty recipes for the penitential seasons.

If you put on the “Liturgical Year Mindset” almost any cookbook can become your helper for Liturgical cooking. I love thumbing through different ethnic cookbooks to find recipes named after saints, or made especially for the feast days. So many countries the saints and feasts were tightly woven into daily, secular life, and the cookbooks reflect this pattern.

What’s on your shelf? Any ones that you can recommend?

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