Monday, October 8, 2012
GIVEAWAY and St. Hildegard's "Cookies That Bring Joy"
I was given the opportunity to review the book, From St. Hildegard's Kitchen from Catholic Family Gifts.
Before looking through this Catholic cookbook, I really didn't know anything about St. Hildegard. But there's a short bio of her in the introduction. I learned that she was a German mystic in the middle ages who received visions about many different things. One subject she received some visions on, interestingly, was eating - which types of foods promote or inhibit one's health ("foods of joy" vs. "foods of sadness"). She wrote some books on the subject, and was supposedly ahead of her time with a lot of her dietary principles.
For this cookbook, some of St. Hildegard's recipes were taken and adapted by the author, who is a lay oblate of St. Benedict [Hildegard's order] and also a chef. Other recipes in the book are merely "inspired" by St. Hildegard's dietary principles, using some ingredients which were unknown in 12th century Germany.
As I was flipping through and looking over the recipes, I often said to myself, "geez - I'd need to go on a foraging expedition through a meadow to get some of these ingredients!". Like, where am I supposed to come across things like hyssop, fiddleheads, and galingale? Not in the grocery store....
For that reason, this book would mostly appeal to people who like simple dishes, but are willing to scout out uncommon or adventurous ingredients.
Anyways, I found a recipe that intriqued me: Cookies That Bring Joy. According to St. Hildegard, "they will reduce bad humors, enrich the blood, and fortify the nerves....They may help remove hate from the heart, assure good intelligence...and give one a joyful spirit." Well, alright!
The book says that they are traditionally baked on her feast day, September 16th. Dang! I had missed it by less than two weeks. I was bummed to lose such a perfect opportunity to try out that recipe. But then I happened to hear that St. Hildegard was being named a Doctor of the Church yesterday. Perfect occasion to make her cookies!
St. Hildegard's big thing is spelt, a species of wheat which she claimed to be better for you than the regular type. When I had decided to make the cookies, I wanted them to be authentic. So I had to head out to the local food co-op to pick up some spelt flour (I got the whole-grain kind, assuming that's what Hildegard would have used).
The cookies were pretty flat (too much butter, St. Hildegard!!), but tasty. They are flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (which she says are all "spices that bring joy", and I have to say I'd agree with that). The spelt gave them that whole-wheaty taste, so they reminded me of a healthy version of a gingersnap. The friends who tasted them yesterday seemed to enjoy them. Tom liked them enough to request that I make them again. But maybe that was just the joyful spirit talking.
This will be really simple. Just leave a comment on this post to enter. On Friday, I will pick one person at random. That lucky reader will win a gift from Catholic Family Gifts (either this cookbook, or something else if you prefer). MAKE SURE TO CHECK BACK, because if you win, I'll need you to contact me with more information!