A Little Whimsey for Monday Morning

No doubt you would much prefer one of my ‘aspirationally learned’ expositions of chapter 31 of the Rule of St Benedict, The Kind of Person the Cellarer Should Be, which we are re-reading now, but I am going to disappoint you and share a little monastic whimsey instead. In due place to forget one’s wisdom is sweet, says Horace, and who dare disagree?

Last week, having much that was better to do, I decided to take the community on a culinary world tour. With the monastic oven out of action and two feast days to accommodate, it was a challenge. I limited myself to what we had in the freezer or the store cupboard, and here are the results.


We began in France, with pan-seared sea bass in a lemon, lime and caper sauce, with Lyonnaise potatoes. No pudding could be managed after that!


Monday saw us in the Maghreb with Shakshuka and home-made flatbreads. We grow a lot of herbs and a neighbour often gives us eggs from their hens, so this was easy-peasy.


Back in France, Normandy region, for pork loin chops with caramelised onions and pears, mashed potato and wilted cabbage. This tasted better than it looks. It really needed a grill to finish it off properly as those little pieces of cheese should be golden brown. We live and learn.


Off to Hungary for a vegetarian goulash with tarragon and horseradish dumplings (made from vegetarian suet, of course); served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, spring onions and a chunk of almost-French baguette. Guaranteed to provide plenty of inner heat in cold weather!

Thursday saw us in Erewhon/Everywhere for a garlicky chicken and sausage casserole — comfort food for a nun having cataract surgery earlier in the day. Nothing to see here, just a mixture of odds and ends from the freezer and the vegetable basket, with lots of Lautrec garlic given by a friend and a slight Spanish touch in the use of pimentón.

Friday is a fast day with us, so we travelled in time rather than geographically: All Our Yesterdays Soup (i.e. made from left-overs), with a choice of home-made wholemeal bread and cheese or wholemeal bread and tuna, followed by an apple from the garden.


‘One we made earlier’. Saturday quickly span out of control, so an Italian lasagne pulled from the freezer and served with salad fitted the bill. Even in a monastery it can be difficult to cook ‘properly’ but batch cooking for the freezer is a great help.

Some readers may have given up at this point but others will recognize that food, its preparation, service and sharing, plays an important part in the Rule of St Benedict and in Christianity generally. Our most important act as a community is the celebration of the Eucharist. By extension, meals in a monastery are never purely private, individualistic affairs, because of their eucharistic character. The ritual with which they are surrounded, the blessings and the readings, are a sign of the role they play and the way in which they connect the bodily reality of our lives with the spiritual. The cellarer, as we are reminded in RB 31, must never misuse food to exert control over others nor allow any material thing to be treated sloppily or carelessly but show reverence and forethought. It is probably whimsical of me, but perhaps there is something there for all of us, including those negotiating agreements at COP26.


9 thoughts on “A Little Whimsey for Monday Morning”

  1. Your Yesterday’s Soup inspires me to share our Resurrection Pie. All the tail ends of the week’s veggies, chopped up and combined with egg, milk and cheese and baked in a pastry flan case. Much love and Bon Appetit.x

  2. A cook after my own heart. So inventive and creative. Sharing food and serving it well is to respect those who grew it and transported it and prepared it. That baguette indicates that you are still waiting for the electrician who was supposed to arrive on the 5th 🙁
    I hope (s)he turns up soon. Do you, like my French mother, refer to the upper crust as Mon Seigneur and the lower crust as Notre Dame?

    • Thank you. Oven repaired today and unseasonal alleluias being sent heavenwards as a consequence. No, I have a vague recollection of hearing the expression your mother used, but long ago and far away’ in my schooldays.

  3. I really enjoyed that Sister – not at all whimsical but rather inspiring … I have to say that it gave me “food for thought” – sorry! Ghastly of me but someone had to 🙂 Blessings on you and your food; Bless you as you sit together to share it, bless the hands that prepare it and (as the mother of a farmer) the land that grows it. Amen.

  4. Dear Sisters, I am delighted to hear how well you feasted! It brings a whole new raison-d’etre for feast days as a huge contrast to the other days. Well done

  5. I’m afraid it’s my stomach that yearns for the monastery life!!! Hope that doesn’t offend. The food looks delicious.
    Your cooker failure reminds me of a skiing holiday I went on with eleven others one a three year old. Great apartment but the cooker had not been delivered. I was cook!! Interesting what you can do with s job snd s pressure cooker. Warm wishes

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