Looking for saints who shared her love of cooking, Amy Heyd, author of Saints at the Dinner Table, discovered several, such as Sts. Margaret and Christine, whom she would like to invite to her house. She writes: “I realize now more than ever that when I pray to a saint, I need to have some connection with that saint. Because I am a mother of three children and enjoy cooking for my family as well as friends, I thought I would research saints who shared my interest in food and care-taking.”
Amy Heyd spoke with Franciscan Media about food, faith, and family gatherings during the holidays.
Why are food and faith so closely linked?
Both our body and soul need nourishment. God provides food to nourish our bodies and opportunities for prayer and service to nourish our souls.
What do you, personally, get out of cooking?
For me, cooking is a release. It calms me when things feel out of control. If I can control what comes out of the oven it makes it easier for me to give God control of the rest. I love working with different flavors, spices, and herbs when I'm in the kitchen cooking. It's very centering for me.
Does your family have any Thanksgiving traditions?
We move to the living room after dinner and team up to play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit.
What is your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?
Definitely my grandmother’s German Sausage dressing. The recipe only calls for five ingredients, but, wow, when those ingredients combine together it makes my taste buds shout for joy.
What are you thankful for?
I have been very blessed with a terrific family and great friends.
I don’t like cranberry sauce. Other traditional Thanksgiving sides get old. What other options do I have?
Thanksgiving is so steeped with food traditions you run the risk of starting a riot if you don’t serve the old standbys. Sometimes it is a good idea to try a new twist on an old favorite. I hate cranberry jelly that comes out of a can, but my mom used to make a cranberry relish that was fantastic. The sweet and tart relish is a nice light accent against the heavy Thanksgiving dinner.
What saints—if any—come to mind for you this holiday?
St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of Missionaries. Just like the pilgrims, he spent his life in new lands living in difficult conditions.
Pumpkin pie is a mainstay at Thanksgiving but it can be overplayed. What other desserts do you recommend?
My husband is not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, (truth be told, I am not either), so one year I made a Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe I found in a Pillsbury circular. We loved it! Now every year my husband asks for that pie.
Do you encourage families to cook together?
I encourage spending time with your family. Cooking can be a great way to do that. When my children were younger, we cooked together all of the time. Now that they are older we don’t cook together as much. When we do, the kids usually have some friends over to participate. It has been a great way to spend time with my kids and get to know their friends better. Here are two family recipes that I'd love to share.
Gee’s German Sausage Dressing
3 (24 oz.) packages of Pepperidge Farm white bread
1 (1 lb.) package of mild pork sausage (not sage flavored)
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 (49 oz.) can chicken broth
Cut the bread into dice size pieces. Ideally the bread should sit out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry out a bit. I don’t always plan that far ahead. It works fine to cut the bread and then place it into a very large soup pot or bowl.
In a large skillet, break up the sausage and cook for 5 – 7 minutes over medium heat until the sausage is fully cooked. Remove the sausage from the skillet and drain on paper towel.
Remove most of the grease from the pan leaving just a little. With the sausage out of the skillet, place the onions and celery in the skillet and cook over medium heat until the onions become soft and translucent. Sprinkle the onions and celery over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the cooked sausage over the bread mixture and stir together.
Slowly pour one third of the can of chicken broth over the bread mixture and fully combine. Add the second third (that sounds funny, doesn’t it) of the chicken broth and fully combine. Spoon the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Once the mixture is evenly distributed, pour the final third of the chicken broth over the bread mixture. At this point the dressing can be refrigerated overnight if you desire. Bake the dressing in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.
1 seedless orange
1 (12 oz.) bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
Zest the orange and place the zest(the very outer orange part of the orange’s peel) into a food processor. Remove the bitter pith (the white part of the orange peel) of the orange and then cut the orange into quarters and place into the food processor.
Add the cranberries and the sugar to the food processor and pulse for about one minute. The cranberries should be processed into small rice size pieces. Do not pulse into a liquid.
Cover the relish and refrigerate for 24 hours to let the flavors blend. (This is great because when you are making a Thanksgiving meal the last thing you want to make is one more dish that has to be assembled at the last minute!) The relish will last in the refrigerator for two weeks.