I have been enjoying reading through the book Feast Day Cookbook: The Traditional Catholic Feast Day Dishes of Many Lands by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger. I’m always tickled when someone else is interested in eating liturgically, and the fact that this was published in 1951 means there’s a fun historical twist to the whole endeavor. Not only do I get to read about “feast day dishes of many lands” but I get to read it in the language and assumptions of 1950s America.
I was grateful to the book for today’s Feast, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, because left to my own devices, all I would come up with is feasting on locusts and honey…and, you know, no thanks.
They talk about how this Feast is so close to Midsummer, that many traditions connect the two. Outdoor bonfires in Ireland, “the Fires of St. John” relate back to pagan midsummer bonfires, for example.
There are other fiery customs – daring young men jumping through Johannesfeuer in Germany, and betrothed couples leaping through flames together in Hungary.
And then we get to Mexico, where “St. John’s feast is his and his alone, and the summer solstice has no slightest share in it. He is the Mexican’s dearly beloved saint…everyone brings food, cakes and sweets, but also tamales and tacos and empanadas.” (pg 81)
I am tickled at the italics – I presume in 1951, Mexican food wasn’t a staple of every household’s Taco Tuesday, and these things we grew up with at the Taco Bell are exotic and exciting.
I am a bit horrified at the taco recipe enclosed, however. It involves grinding a frying pork in lard, adding chopped onion, pepper, and 1 tomato – then adding mashed boiled egg, raisins, and sherry (!!!!!!). Create a sauce with chopped onions and tomatoes. Place meat in wrapped tortillas, place in a backing dish, cover with the onion/tomato sauce, and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake and serve when the cheese is melted.
I mean, maybe? But it ain’t a taco.
This year, my household is nodding to “Mexico’s beloved saint” with a Taco night – not using the recipe above – and lighting candles for our own “Fires of St. John”.
Next year maybe we can embrace our British roots and place bread, cheese, and beer outside our door for passers-by to sample (pg 88). Where we live up in the woods, those passers-by are likely to be squirrels and possums, though.