Dining at the CIA

 Culinary-Institute-of- America-Farquharson-Hall

Culinary-Institute-of- America-Farquharson-Hall

I always enjoy watching the gasp of astonishment on the faces of visitors as they enter the Culinary Institute Farquharson Hall with its glorious sky-blue vaulted ceiling and dazzling stained glass windows. This remarkable space was originally the hallowed chapel of St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Hyde Park, NY, a Jesuit seminary built in 1901. Now it is the main student dining room.

How appropriate it is to associate monks with the blessings of good food and plenty of it.

You will undoubtedly remember that pretzels are thought to have been invented by an Italian monk–baker in 610 AD. The original snack-food, they were made from dough scraps formed into a shape emulating arms folded over the chest in prayer. The monk gave the baked goods to students as rewards for good works. He called them pretiolas, which means “little rewards” in Latin.

And it was in medieval times that a monk visited a baron’s home and sat down to dinner with the family.  When the chicken was brought out on a platter, the monk offered to carve the splendid bird according to scriptural precepts.  The baron was delighted and agreed enthusiastically.

The monk thereupon offered the head, neck, wings, and drumsticks to the baron and his family and took the rest of the bird onto his own plate. When the baron questioned the seemingly disparate division of the chicken, the monk explained:

“Since the master is head of the house, he should get the head. The baroness, being closest to the head, should receive that part of the bird closest to the head — namely, the neck. The wings symbolize the flighty thoughts of the young daughters and so constitute their portion. The drumsticks go to the sons to remind them that they are the support of the house even as the legs hold up the chicken.”

Having delivered himself of this edifying piece of logic, the monk proceeded to devour his handsome portion, while the baron and his family were left to nourish themselves, mainly on his wisdom.

Food Job: Monks and nuns raise money to help support their monasteries and convents by making and selling a variety of foods. These may include breads, cheeses, cookies, candies, fruitcakes and preserves. Mary Jacobs, a reporter for The Dallas Morning News wrote, “Not all monastic communities with businesses have managed to balance the distractions of financial and commercial success with spiritual life.”

According to a National Catholic Reporter article, the brewery at Andech Monastery in Germany has “expanded to a multimillion-dollar business, staffed by 23 monks and 200 lay employees.” Giuseppe Bellapadrona, the Vatican’s farm and garden manager, reveals that annual production is valued at $330,000 and that it makes a healthy contribution to the cost of operating the pope’s residence.

Chefs are employed too, by many religious institutions. They provide everything from macaroni and cheese to sumptuous suppers accompanied with uplifting spiritual refreshments.

Here follows the silent prayer of the Quakers.……….