20 Saints That Hover Over Us as We Cook and Eat

by Christine Sine
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by Christine Sine                                           artwork~  Retablo by: Lynn Garlick    www.garlickretablos.com

I love cooking especially as the weather grows colder and Christmas approaches. I love the resulting gatherings, dinner conversations and the delight that people often express in what I make. More recently I enjoyed putting together the recipes for our upcoming Godspacelight Community Cookbook which I hope will stir others to cook, eat and enjoy time together.

A couple of weeks ago I received a small icon of St Drogo the patron saint of coffee, coffee-drinkers, cafes, and baristas. That got me thinking Who is the patron saint of tea, and what other patron saints hover round us as we cook and drink and celebrate? In a few weeks we celebrate All Saints Day so this seemed like a great time to honor those who might surround us as we cook and eat.

1. St. Nicholas of Syracuse — Patron of baking, confectionaries, chocolatiers

Feast: Dec. 6 St Nicholas is better known to us as Santa Claus and the bringer of gifts. Because of this 4th-century bishop’s association with children and Christmas, he is considered the patron of everything sweet. For a wealth of information, stories, plays, recipes, and customs about St. Nicholas, how his image evolved into Santa Claus, and how to celebrate his feast as part of Advent, see www. stnicholascenter.org.

2. St. Hyacinth — Patron of pierogi

Feast: Aug. 17 Hyacinth was known as the  “Apostle of the North”. He preached the Gospel in Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, lands associated with pierogi — those magnificent Polish dumplings — sweet or savory, fried or boiled — made from unleavened dough. As legend has it, on July 13, 1238, Hyacinth visited the town of Kościelec, Poland, which had just experienced a devastating storm that destroyed all of the local crops, bringing its population to the brink of starvation. Hyacinth prayed and the crops were saved. In a show of gratitude, the townsfolk created pierogi from the renewed crops. He was said to have walked the streets of Kraków handing out pierogi, which were a luxury food item of the time, to the poor, destitute and needy.

3. St. Drogo — Patron of coffee, coffee-drinkers, cafes, and baristas

Feast: April 16. 12th-century Drogo was the son of a Flemish nobleman who could somehow be in two places at the same time. He was seen tending the fields and at daily Mass at the same time. He also took 10 pilgrimages to Rome on foot. How he became the patron saint of coffee is puzzling; coffee was not introduced to Europe until the 15th century. Evidently, Clement VIII was the first pope to try coffee, which had the reputation of being the “Devil’s Drink.” While some of the cardinals asked the Pope to ban it, Clement rather enjoyed it. “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

4. Dom Justo Takayama Ukon — Patron of tea

Feast: Feb. 3 Justo Takayama Ukon was a 17th-century Japanese samurai and daimyō martyr who was particularly fond of tea and enjoyed the spiritual aspects of the Japanese tea ceremony. Conversions brought about through the help of Dom Justo are believed to number in the tens of thousands during an era in which the oppressive regime of Chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi was bearing down on Catholic Christians. The samurai renounced his fiefdom, walking away from worldly power and voluntarily embracing poverty over obedience to a despot. He lived under the protection of friends and allies for several decades, but in 1614, when Toyotomi’s successor prohibited the Christian faith outright, Dom Justo left Japan from Nagasaki, leading 300 Catholics into exile in Manila, Philippines, so they could again practice their faith. He died there, forty days later, the only daimyō to be buried on Philippine soil.

5. St. Elizabeth of Hungary — Patron of bakers, and baking

Feast: Nov. 17. The 13th-century Elizabeth distributed bread to the poor every day. In 1228, Elizabeth joined the Secular Franciscan Order, spending the remaining few years of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Elizabeth’s health declined, and she died before her 24th birthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in her canonization four years later.

6. St. Arnulf of Metz/Arnouf — Patron of beer, and bartenders

Feast: July 18. Born in Lorraine around AD 580, Arnulf was a bishop of Metz when dysentery hit his city. He reasoned that it was due to the drinking water. He pleaded with his flock to avoid drinking water and replace it with beer. The epidemic stopped instantly and, as reported, everyone had a more positive outlook on life afterward.

7. St. Urban of Langres — Patron of wine, vintners, sommeliers

Feast: Jan. 23 In 374, Urban, a French bishop had to flee his diocese due to political turmoil and hid in a vineyard. The vine-dressers in the area concealed him, and he took the opportunity to convert them to Christianity. Those same vine-dressers then helped him in his covert ministry, as he moved from one town to another via their vineyards. Urban developed great affection to all the people in the wine industry, and they for him.

8. St. Neot — Patron of fish fries

Feast: July 31 St. Neot, was a four-foot-tall monk from Glastonbury, England, who died in 877. Pius legend has it that on his deathbed, Neot’s brother monk went to retrieve fish living in a nearby well. An angel had previously assured Neot that the three fish currently living in the well would never decrease as long as Neot ate no more than a single fish each day. Neot’s caretaker, being unfamiliar with the angel’s assurance, retrieved two of the fish to strengthen Neot’s failing health. Upon finding out about the monk’s error, Neot prayed for forgiveness and ordered that the now cooked and very dead fish be returned to the well. As they entered the water, both Neot and the fish were returned to life.

9. St. Lawrence of Rome — Chefs, sommeliers, cooking, comedians

Feast: Aug. 10. St. Lawrence is the go-to patron saint of cooking. Upon being convicted by Christian-hating Roman pagans, Lawrence was sentenced to death by being slow-roasted over an open fire. Reputedly, his last words were, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!” And that, is why St. Lawrence is the Patron of chefs.

10. St. Isidore the Farmer — Farmers, greengrocers

Feast: May 15. Spanish saint Isidore was a farmer all his life. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long. Unsurprisingly, he became the patron of farmers.

11. St. Brigid of Kildare — Patron of cheese and cheesemakers

Feast: Feb. 1 The 5th-century Brigid. is remembered as a fine monastic leader, a spiritual guide and a healer. She and her double monastery (she presided over both men and women) were known for their generous hospitality and their compassionate care for the sick, the poor and the oppressed far beyond the gates of the monastery. Her generosity and hospitality are some of the reasons she is now the patron of cheese, and my personal friend.

12. St. Abigail — Patron of bees and honey

Feast: Feb. 11 St. Abigail, also known as Deborah and Gobnait, was born in the 6th century in County Clare, Ireland, but ran away from home due to family problems. After she spent some time in French convent, she returned to Ireland and a colony of bees took up residence at the bow of her boat, which ferried her home to Ireland. She used their honey in her preparations to cure illnesses. Our awareness of the crucial role bees play in pollination make St Abigail a very important person for us to celebrate

13. St. Martha of Bethany — Patron saint of cooks, waiters, waitresses

Feast: July 29. Martha, Mary and Lazarus often feted Jesus and his Apostles at dinner. One day, Mary seemed to be shirking her duties in the kitchen and Martha urged Jesus to ask her sister to lend a hand in the kitchen instead of listening to Jesus. Jesus gently admonished Martha by reminding her that Mary choose the contemplative life rather than the life of service (Luke 10:38-42). Irma Rombauer chose St Martha for the cover of the first edition of her “The Joy of Cooking”. She got her daughter, Marion, to do the cover art, which is a drawing of St Martha, handbag in one hand, broom in another, and what looks like a dinner plate for a halo, slaying a dragon, which is presumed to be the dragon of kitchen chores. In other words, Irma chose for the cover of her first book someone who just gets into the kitchen, and gets things done.

14. St. Honoré — Patron saint of bread, bakers and those who make altar bread

Feast: May 16. St. Honoré has been associated with bread for more than a thousand years. His patronal church in Paris was the site of the bakers’ guild and many pastry shops and boulangeries are named after him. In Paris his feast day is celebrated with three-day bread festivals. The eponymously-named Gateau St. Honoré is a cream-filled puff pastry still used as a First Communion cake in France.

15. St. Nicholas of Tolentino — Patron saint of vegans and vegetarians

Feast: Sept. 10. This Italian saint was a dedicated vegetarian. He once received a Marian apparition when he was seriously ill, and the Blessed Mother told him he’d be cured if he ate bread dipped in water. From that moment onward, he cured many people by giving bread and water to them. According to a pious legend, a host once gave Nicholas a dish of fried chicken to eat, not knowing that Nicholas was a vegetarian. The saint thanked his benefactor and prayed over his plate. At that, the chicken was instantly transformed into roasted vegetables.

16. St. Hildegard of Bingen — Patron saint of nutritionists, recipe collectors, and chefs

Feast: Sept. 17. St Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church was a prolific writer. Her writing covered many topics, including the subjects of medicine, botany, theology, and liturgy. She also composed songs, wrote plays, and experienced visions. She also wrote recipes and engaged in nutritional science and believed food had healing properties. She created her “Cookies of Joy” which were meant to promote good health and cheerfulness, saying, “They will reduce the bad humors, enrich the blood, and fortify the nerves.”

17. St. Bibiana – patron of teetotalers, hangovers and New Year’s resolutions

Feast: Sept. 1. Virtually nothing is known about St Bibiana except her martyrdom in the 4th century. It is said that upon her burial “mysterious and magical herbs” grew up around her grave and that it was these herbs that worked the miracles. A church was built over her grave in Rome. In the Middle Ages pilgrims to the holy site of Santa Bibiana would scrape dust from its columns and eat it which worked the same hangover magic as the original herbs did.

18. St. Macarius The Younger – Patron of candy makers

Feast : January 2. Young Macarius was a successful businessman who made and sold candy and sweet pastries in Egypt in 335.  Inspired by stories of holy men who had fled civilization for a life of prayer and penance, Macarius gave up his candy business and spent a good part of his life in a bare one-room house, living much like a hermit.

19. St. Vincent – Patron of Wine

Feast: January 22. Nothing in St. Vincent’s life has a true connection to wine.  It is believed his association with wine came about simply because of his name.  In French, the word for wine is vin and in Italian it is vino.  Another reason St. Vincent may be associated with wine is that red wine reminded Christians of St. Vincent’s bloody martyrdom.  During barbaric oppression of Christians, Vincent refused to deny Christ.  He was imprisoned and tortured and eventually died from his injuries.  His bloody clothes were preserved as relics to his martyrdom.

20. St. Pasqual of Baylon – Patron of the Kitchen

Feast: May 17. Pasqual of Baylon is remembered mostly for his extraordinary devotion to the Eucharist and his heroism in the face of danger.  He was also noted for his strict austerities, as well as his love for and compassion towards the sick. As a humble friar he never wasted food. The end of each week saw him eat a few boiled vegetables which had been soaked in water with the terrible-smelling weed known as wormwood. He often ate scraps from the kitchen. In his native Spain, and in Latin America, he revered as the Patron Saint of the Kitchen.

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Join Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin for a discussion on Pilgrimage. Wednesday, September 21st at 9 am PT. Happening live in the Godspace Light Community Group on Facebook – but if you can’t catch the live discussion, you can catch up later on YouTube!

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