Who Does The Cooking?

The article below is an excerpt taken from “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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Today, we have two very beautiful sisters with us, Sr. Mary Dominic and Sr. Mary Bethany. They have a very unusual assignment along with the many other things that they do: they are what we call our beloved kitchen Sisters. They are in charge of the meals. So when you received this responsibility, Sisters, how did you react to it? 

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Sr. Mary Dominic:

Well, you know Sister, our life is a lot about just jumping into it wherever you are. You never quite know what is going to come at you, so you always have to be ready to jump in no matter what it is. In some ways I wasn’t surprised, but in some ways I was. It’s a great privilege to serve the Sisters and make sure that meals are nutritious, well-rounded, and in line with our vow of poverty.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

And that we don’t become well-rounded in that.

Sr. Mary Dominic:

That’s very excellently put. Yes, but it was just another example of jumping into the life.

Sr. Mary Bethany:

If you had asked me at the beginning of this semester whether I thought I would be in charge of the kitchen, I would have told you, “Probably not,” because I never really saw myself as a strong cook before I entered the convent. But one of the things of our life that Sr. Mary Dominic touched on is sometimes jumping into and discovering things that you would have otherwise not thought you were good at.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Did you not think that you were a good cook?

Sr. Mary Bethany:

Oh Sister, don’t ask my family about that part. It’s such a privilege to have the faith to know that this is my obedience and this is what the Lord is asking of me. It is such a privilege just to be able to say yes and trust that He will give all the graces to serve in this position within the community.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

That’s beautiful. Sisters, I love your honesty. Now, I’ve got to ask you, when did you start cooking?

Sr. Mary Dominic:

I grew up cooking with my mom. I’m the oldest in my family, so I grew up in the kitchen with my mom watching her doing what she was doing.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

See, moms, how important you are? Teach those daughters how to cook. They might have a religious vocation one day, and we like to eat.

Sr. Mary Bethany:

I also grew up watching my mom cook. It was never something that I was especially interested in or devoted to. I entered the convent out of high school, so I really learned how to cook in the convent. We all do share the responsibility of cooking for the other Sisters. 

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Explain that for people reading this.

Sr. Mary Bethany:

So here at the Motherhouse, we typically have between 60 and 70 Sisters living here during the year. During the week, the novices, the Sisters who are in formation, are home during the day. While everyone else is out teaching and studying, they are assigned teams of usually four cooks per day. Those four sisters will receive a menu from the kitchen Sister, which will be me and Sr. Mary Dominic this year, and then they will prepare the food. 

On the weekends, we trade off; the professed sisters who have been out at the apostolate during the week cook on the weekends. You just dive into recipes that you have never seen before and have to create dishes you have never made before. I really owe a lot of my cooking experience to just being in the convent.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

On those rare occasions when we get something burned, who do we get angry at?

Sr. Mary Dominic:

Well, maybe the Lord, because in addition to having to cook for 60 or 70 people, which could be an all-day event in itself, we have the other responsibilities of our life. We have prayers at set times. Novitiate sisters, God bless them, have classes during the day as well at the Motherhouse. So not only are you cooking for large amounts of people, you also have a very limited time in which to do it.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Isn’t it fun?

Sr. Mary Dominic:

It is so much fun. And it truly is a challenge. Sometimes it’s like an ultimate test of figuring out how a meal is going to happen. And honestly, I’ve seen miracles happen. Going to prayers and just praying that the chicken cooks! I think the Lord and Our Lady look after a lot of it!

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

I have to say that our meals are wonderful. One of the things I have noticed is that the Sisters who are out teaching, at the end of a very trying day, they get back around 4:30 or later, but one of the first places they tend to head to after they make their chapel visits is the kitchen. So they thank Jesus for the graces of the day and ask Him to continue giving graces, and then they end up in the kitchen. Why is that?

Sr. Mary Dominic:

I think that our Motherhouse and our convents are homes. Just as in a family home, the kitchen tends to be one of those places where everyone gravitates. It’s very similar, and that holds true here at the Motherhouse. So, of course, our hearts are with the Lord. We make our chapel visit. But really, our place of community is the kitchen, and I think that it has to do with the fact that we are body and soul. We tend to just find each other and gravitate towards the other Sisters. So seeking that community and seeing what is on the menu for the night is a wonderful way to unwind and see the generosity of the Sisters. Many Sisters will pitch in to help with the cleaning, too. The kitchen is a place where everyone finds their way.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

We live our lives with a continuum, very much according to the liturgical calendar. Would you both like to explain what that means and how that influences the decisions of the meals that we’re going to have?

Sr. Mary Dominic:

We really do live the liturgies that we celebrate. We live according to the feast of the Church, so the Holy Mother Church is giving us something to ponder on. For example, during ordinary times, we have ferial days which are just when there are no saints who are being commemorated during the liturgy that day. We’ll probably have a simple meal to go along with it. But on a Sunday, celebrating the Lord’s resurrection, we have a fancier breakfast, nicer food, and we may have chocolate for dessert. 

Another way that is expressed is in feast days. If it is a sister’s patron saint’s feast day, we try to make a meal that we know the sister really likes. If she really likes chicken pot pie or hamburgers, or if she favors a specific dessert, we can make a little treat for her in that way. Something that we know she likes, whether she’s a chocoholic or likes fruit and nuts, we try to make something that we know she will enjoy.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

Okay, Sisters, do you have one simple recipe for our listeners and our viewers they can just remember and not have to write down that would be a favorite of our sisters? Do you have something that simple?

Sr, Mary Bethany:

I think that this is probably the simplest recipe out there, and it’s one of a favorite of the Sisters because it involves peanut butter. They are flourless peanut butter cookies. All it is is one cup of peanut butter, one cup of white sugar, and one egg, and you just beat it all together and scoop it out and bake it like regular cookies.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:

That sounds delicious. You are right. I think it is universal. If you don’t love peanut butter and you don’t love chocolate, I just don’t know about you. The cookies are also gluten-free, so people who have special diets can enjoy those, too. 

We hope that bringing you into our kitchen at the Motherhouse was a very warm and enjoyable experience for each of you. Sr. Mary Dominic and Sr. Mary Bethany, I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this and for serving the community in this beautiful, beautiful role. God bless you. Thank you so much.

About:

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at Go_LEDigital.

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