St. Francis’ feast is a minor one on the Episcopal calendar, and yet it’s one that everyone seems to know. Perhaps it’s because of the popularity of the “blessing of the animals” many churches do on the closest Sunday to Oct 4th. Perhaps it’s because of the popular prayer attributed to him (although perhaps not written by him).
We get our doggo blessed at church, and I’ve tried to institute an annual “St. Francis Hike” with my kids where we enjoy the gorgeous New England fall leaves just starting to turn and see how many animals we can spot on the hiking trail. The kids are less enamored of this tradition – we’ll see if I can get them to go this year.
But I’ve never found a real food tie-in. Francis was pretty well known for not eating very much, devoting his life to poverty.
However, I did stumble across this today, and I’m not sure what to make of it:
From “FEAST DAY COOKBOOK by KATHERINE BURTON & HELMUT RIPPERGER (Amazon)
David McKay Company, Inc., New York
October 4: Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
FROM HIS early biographers we learn a charming incident in
the life of the Little Poor Man of Assisi which deals with
food even for this most abstemious of saints.
It was in the year 1212 that Saint Francis became acquainted
with a young woman of the Roman nobility, Lady Jacoba di
Settesoli, widow of the knight Gratiano Frangipani. The name
Frangipani had been given the family because an ancestor had
saved the Roman people from famine by giving them bread–
hence the name “Frangens panem.”
Jacoba, a very devout woman and noted for her great
generosity, often gave lodging to the Poverello when he came
to Rome. So impressed was he with the energy and the
capability of his friend that he called her “Brother
Jacoba,” by which title she passed to posterity. She not
only saw that Francis’ clothing was in decent order, but she
served in her home a sweetmeat of which he was very fond.
“Frangipane” it was called in later years–a concoction of
almonds and sugar, for which the saint expressed perhaps the
only compliment on cooking in his life.
Because Brother Jacoba was so good to him, Francis gave her
a lamb which he had cherished and allowed to accompany him
about, in honor, says Saint Bonaventure, of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, the gentle Lamb of God. The lamb adopted Jacoba in
the same way and “it would follow its mistress to church,
lie down near her when she prayed, and return home with her.
If Lady Jacoba overslept in the morning, the lamb would come
to awaken her and would bleat in her ear to compel her to go
to her devotions.”
When he lay dying, Saint Francis thought of Brother Jacoba.
“She would be too sad,” he said to Brother Bernard, “to
learn that I had quitted the world without warning her,” and
he dictated a letter, telling her the end of his life was
near, that she was to set out as quickly as possible for
Assisi to see him once more, and to bring with her a piece
of haircloth as a shroud for his body and whatever else was
necessary for his burial. “Bring me also,” he ended, “I beg
thee, some of those good things thou gavest me to eat in
Rome when I was ill.”
But the letter was barely finished and still unsent when the
noise of horses was heard. Jacoba entered with her two sons
and her servants, having been inspired to set out for Assisi
from Rome. When one of the Brothers told Francis he had good
news and before he could say more, Francis spoke. “God be
praised. Let the door be opened, for the rule forbidding
women to enter here is not for Brother Jacoba.”
She had brought everything he needed–the veil for his face,
the cushion for his head, the haircloth, the wax for the
watching and funeral ceremonies. And she had brought also
some of the almond sweetmeats he loved. He tried to eat
them, but found he could take only a taste and he gave the
rest to Brother Bernard.
Today we know “Frangipane” as a sweet almond cream flavored
with red jasmine extract or a similar essence. It is used as
a filling for cakes.
My goodness! What a tale! As with many traditions on saints days, I think it’s perfectly okay to eat something in honor of how others honored a saint, regardless of if the tale is completely 100% true (I have my doubts on this bad boy here).
So, if you are so moved to eat some frangipane upon returning from your nature hike with complaining kids and a newly-blessed dog, here’s a recipe for a Cherry Frangipane Tart that looks pretty darn amazing.