Book Review: Catholic cookbooks for Christmas

By J.E. Helm
The Sooner Catholic

A good cookbook is the gift that keeps on giving; its recipes can be enjoyed the whole year. Cookbooks also can be used to prepare holiday meals that are surely a celebration, and some cookbooks feature food as gifts that can be wrapped and packed and shipped.

“The Vatican Cookbook”

A wonderful gift for any Catholic family or individual is “The Vatican Cookbook.” It is proffered by the Pontifical Swiss Guard and features to-die-for recipes as well as stunningly beautiful photographs of the Vatican and of the Swiss Guard. The history and traditions of the guard trail through recipes and photos of dishes that have been favorites of the popes and officers of the guard.

For an accompaniment, “The Swiss Chef suggests: pretzel dumplings,” and the recipe for the same is found in “Basic Recipes” at the back of the book, which also includes details for making pasta dough, pizza dough, kluski and spaetzli.

“Jerusalem”

From Rome, the next stop is Jerusalem. This city is surely a part of our Catholic heritage and is also the title of a cookbook, “Jerusalem,” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. An award-winning book, this selection has marvelous photographs of the city as well as the food. As the authors point out, the many nationalities that have called Jerusalem home “create an immense tapestry of cuisines.”

“Feast Day Cookbook: The Traditional Catholic Feast Day Dishes of Many Lands”

“Feast Day Cookbook: The Traditional Catholic Feast Day Dishes of Many Lands” by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger is a well-researched source book for legends, folk lore, traditions, and recipes for dishes connected with saint’s days and feast days throughout the year.

Jan. 2 is the Feast of Saint Macarius (4th century) who was a sugarplum merchant before he became a desert hermit, so directions for preparing sugarplums are included as are recipes for later feasts such as Swedish Shrove Tuesday Buns, Saint Valentine Cookies and Welsh Leek Soup for the Feast of Saint David (March 1), who had his soldiers wear a leek in their hats to distinguish them from their enemy counterparts in battle.

There are recipes for Russian Easter breads, Pashka and Koulich as well as dishes for Polish Wigilia, Christmas Eve Supper: Pierogi, Baked Pike and Red Cabbage with Mushrooms.

“Grace Before Meals”

Next, a Catholic family could do no better than by selecting “Grace Before Meals” as a tool for bringing the family together at mealtimes throughout the year. Father Leo Patalinghug is the chef and author, and he appears regularly on EWTN’s “Savoring Our Faith.”

Subtitled “Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals & Family Life,” the book is just that. Twenty-six chapters highlight the various holidays, with “Just Like Dad-Father’s Day,” “Courage and Conviction-The Feast of Saint Francis,” and “Why Sacrifice-Fridays in Lent.”

Each chapter includes Father Leo’s thoughts for the day followed by “Let’s Talk,” “Let’s Pray,” and “Let’s Cook.”

“Holiday Cookies: Show-stopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season”

Cookies are certainly a part of the Christmas tradition, and Elisabet der Nederlanden’s “Holiday Cookies: Show-stopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season” would make a great gift and could also be used to make great gifts.

Recipes include “Very Merry Classics” in Ch. 1, such as Gingerbread and Icebox Pinwheel cookies as well as Chocolate-Stenciled Shortbread Rounds. Nederlanden has chapters on the “Cookie Exchange Party” and “Cookies from around the World.” There are photos of everything.

“Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born”

For the little ones on the list, there is “Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born.” Written by Anna Egan Smucker and illustrated by Amanda Hall, this little book will delight young children as well as the grown-ups who read It to them. It comes complete with a recipe at the end for Soft Pretzels.

“Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour”

For the grown-ups on the list, there is Michael P. Foley’s “Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour.” Part I of the book details saints’ feast days throughout the year and Part II deals with the Liturgical Seasons.

Many of the saints Foley presents are not well-known, and Foley provides some interesting background about these holy souls. Saint Emilion’s Feast Day is Jan. 7, and the order of monks he founded in the 8th century were wine makers.

Buon Appetito! Prosit! Happy cooking and happy cookbooks!

J.E. Helm is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.