Via Religion Unplugged

David Geisser with essays by Scott Hahn
The Lenten Cookbook
Sophia Institute Press, US, 2022
ISBN-13: 978-1644134696

The Lenten Cookbook 


"This is much more than a cookbook. It is a unique guidebook for mealtimes during Lent that can be referred to for years to come. It is also a way to integrate food with your Lenten journey while exploring new foods to eat."

Lent is all about fasting. It is the abstinence from food that many Catholics make as part of their Lenten journey each March to perform penance from sin in preparation for Easter Sunday.

In my family, growing up, I abstained from meat on Fridays during the 40 days of Lent that spanned from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week. Since Jesus sacrificed His flesh for all, we refrain from eating meat in his honour on Fridays. In its place, Catholics eat fish.

Since many Catholics - ones in America in particular - are so carnivorous throughout much of the year, a new cookbook out just in time for Lent focuses on the very dilemma of what to eat on Fridays this month. David Geisser and Scott Hahn’s book The Lenten Cookbook serves up easy-to-make meals and is a great companion volume to The Vatican Christmas Cookbook that was published in 2020.

If you enjoyed that wonderful volume, then this one by award-winning chef and former Vatican Swiss Guard David Geisser will dazzle you for its simplicity. The book - loaded with 75 meatless recipes from across the globe - will delight the palate and offer up a variety of meals for families throughout Lent. Each recipe also comes with either a Bible verse or quote from a saint - satisfying nourishment for your soul along with your stomach.

The book also gives some of the stories and traditions behind some popular foods Catholics like to eat this time of year. It’s such historic context, like a section on the “black fast” that many will find informative. The black fast is, as the book notes, ‘the most rigorous form of fasting in the history of the church". As a result, only one meal can be eaten per day. The person must also refrain from eating meat - in addition to eggs, butter, cheese and milk - and from imbibing wine.

Sight banner angle2

Recipes that work for those who adhere to this form of fasting includes zucchini and orange salad, butternut squash curry and spelt-nut bread. These recipes are extremely simple but tasty, and that’s what matters most when in need of something new to make.

The section on main dishes is where I decided to try my hand at something new that my family and I would like. Recipes for cottage cheese frittata with cucumber and radish dip, featured on page 141, has something for everyone in my family to like.

The other thing I know my kids would like is the Italian-style flatbread that’s featured on page 157. The recipe features olives, capers and black pepper.

Many of us have discovered - and some even rediscovered - what it means to spend more time with family. The pandemic forced us inside for two years. Over that time, cooking became a focal point since we had so much more free time.

Lent, unlike Advent, has always been more about fasting and abstinence from food. While many of us spend most of this time focusing on what to eat on Easter Sunday, this book will allow you to find the joy and creativity that comes with foods you can eat during this penitential season.

In fact, unlike the Christmas edition, these recipes are practical. But like the Christmas version, this 214-page cookbook is also loaded with beautiful photography, along with Scripture and 50 pages of history from Biblical scholar Scott Hahn.

“We are finding once again than fasting, and prayerful self-restraint in food choices generally, doesn't have to be either monastic or a few-times-a-year imposition,” Hahn writes, “but it can be part of the everyday arsenal for spiritual growth (and warfare) available to every Christian.”

This is much more than a cookbook. It is a unique guidebook for mealtimes during Lent that can be referred to for years to come. It is also a way to integrate food with your Lenten journey while exploring new foods to eat.

Clemente Lisi is a senior editor and regular contributor to Religion Unplugged. He is the former deputy head of news at the New York Daily News and teaches journalism at The King’s College in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

This article contains an affiliate link.