Saturday, November 1, 2008

Philosophical Musings #2 - Nullum Gratuitum Prandium

today is All Saints Day and i decided to attend mass (it's been a LONG time) with my dear friend, PJ.  we went to the beautiful Our Lady of the Angels, and afterwards went to the cathedral store to search for saintly items, namely patron saints for, oh i don't know...cooks?  

it seems to be a running joke about how many different kinds of patron saints there are for a wide variety of occupations and ailments, such as bus drivers and alcoholism, computer users and venereal disease.  a full list can be seen here, and although i don't take this sort of thing seriously, it's kinda nice to think that there are these saints that represent important aspects of everyday life.  i had been doing some research prior, and found the patron saint of cooks to be St. Lawrence, however, upon visiting the cathedral store i found that there was indeed more than one patron saint for cooks.  i will list them as follows:

1.  St. Lawrence (also Patron Saint of archives, armouries, brewers, butchers, comedians, confectioners, deacons, fire, glaziers, laundry workers, librarians, lumbago, paupers, poor people, restaurateurs, Rome, school children, seminarians, Sri Lanka, stained glass workers, students, tanners, vintners, wine makers).  as the story goes, he was slowly burned alive on a gridiron, his death sentence by Emperor Valerian in 258 AD.  it is claimed that he told his executioners ,"Turn me over, for I am cooked on this side!"  he usually depicted holding a grid iron (gotta love that catholic sense of humor).

2. St. Martha (also Patron Saint of butlers, dietitians, domestic servants, housekeepers, servers, single laywomen and travelers).  She was sister to St. Lazarus and St. Mary of Bethany, and acted as a hostess to Christ and the apostles.  inventor of bouillabaisse.

3. St. Paschal Baylon (also Patron Saint of Eucharistic congress and organizations).  a Franciscan lay brother of the Alcantine reform, serving as a cook for his brethren.  inventor of zabaglione.

4.  St. Macarius the Younger (also Patron Saint of Pastry Chefs and Confectioners).  was first a merchant of fruits, candies and pastries in Alexandria, Egypt.  he left his successful business to become a monk, living a life of extreme poverty and asceticism in the desert.  for seven years he ate only raw vegetables and water, and on feast days ate crumbs of bread dipped in oil.  he later spent six months in marshes, exposing himself to mosquitoes and flies that left him permanently disfigured as an attempt to rid himself of earthly desires. 

5.  St. Radegund (Patron Saint of Female Cooks/Chefs).  a Merovingian princess and later deaconess and found of the monatery of St. Croix du Poitiers of the 6th century. known for the caring, clothing and feeding the sick and poor, namely women and lepers.  

while at the store, they had a wall display of small patron saint figurines to choose from.  i found myself wanting to get the saints that weren't food related, but instead were the cooler looking "action figures".  St. George was on horseback with a lance slaying a dragon, and St. Michael was brandishing a sword and had his foot stomping on Satan's face (his FACE for christ's sake!  you're going DOWN satan, and you're going to eat my feet on the way!).  the only food related patron saint in tow was St. Martha, and all she was doing was holding a cross.  i later read that while in france, she was supposed to have slain a dragon by sprinkling it with holy water, lassoing it and killing it in a river.  and this is while she invented bouillabaisse?  why couldn't the figurine be her holding a pot of bouillabaisse AND smiting a dragon?  that would have been, the BEST!

i decided to hold off on the figurines and instead purchased some refrigerator magnets of St. Martha and St. Paschal.  St. Lawrence is on the way by special request, and i plan to post this "Most Holy and Venerable Triptych of Gastronomy" in my locker at work, that way when it's time to shine, i can see my saints and have a moment of focus and meditation.  why am i doing this?  simply put, work is getting harder, the numbers are going up, the pickups are getting larger, the prep is disappearing faster, Chef is getting LOUDER, and i'm going to try ANYTHING that will keep up a sense of positivity, hope and concentration.  

i know they are just magnets, and i'm not praying to these saints to intercede.  i focus mainly that the message and sentiment behind them is real and a lesson that i can take heart.  i don't plan on subjecting myself to a volley of arrows (St. Sebastian), or be sentenced to death in the coliseum in defense of my virginity (St. Agnes), but i do plan on meditating on what these saints did, and how me cooking food, is of infinitely less importance.   i should be able to go for the gold and cook food and do my very best because honestly, it's just food and my life isn't on the line.

see, who ever said self deprecation was a bad thing? 

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