Saintly Feasts: Food for Saints and Scholars
by Martina Maher & Colette Scully, with Dries van den Akker SJ (Messenger Publications, €19.95 / £17.50)
This is a lovely book by two charming and talented ladies, one in her 90s, who undertook to cook Sunday lunch for a Jesuit community in England.
Those familiar with present day Jesuit houses will know that though there is a hot lunch five days a week in them, the staff does not work after five or at weekends: cold collations are the order of the evenings and weekends. Martina and Colette came to the rescue, returning to work as a sort of curial work of mercy that grew into something larger. They found a vocation for themselves in cooking.
This cookbook is a sample of the sort of things they made. It is all good traditional fare, nothing cheffy here.
The well loved traditional fish are, however, given a personal twist as their experience grew. From the roast rib of beef down to the summer pudding, this is the stuff to give the clergy, not to speak of your domestic troop.
One would only balk at icing on the Bakewell tarts – such a finish takes from the pure almond and jam flavours. This may be a matter of taste, but that is the way mother made them long ago.
But the book is not all about cooking. A Dutch Jesuit friend has added to each recipe the life of a saint.
These are very interesting as he has rightly chosen a great many little known-names.
Often the link with the receipt seems tenuous, but that does not matter at all. Others are humorous: as St Eve is coupled with roast rib of beef.
Indeed the idea that Adam and Eve are saints led to a discussion of the question at our dinner time; which goes to show what sort of book this is, food for the body, food for the mind.
One last point: this is the first cook book I have seen in years that mentions the question of cost.
The two ladies do the buying for the Sunday lunch, setting £5 a head as the guide line. This is more than one would allow for an ordinary family dinner in the week, but that rib roast with trimmings, a starter and a dessert might well rise to the fiver.
Celebrity chefs on the telly or in print never mention money, except when it comes to their own incomes.