Friday, May 25, 2018

A Continual Feast

I was introduced to this book through Cindy Rollen's Advent book, Hallelujah: a Journey through Handel's Messiah. It has well earned it's place on my shelf over the last 6 months of heavy use. Something I have been studying is how to work the traditional church calendar into our daily lives. There are many reasons we have begun to embrace this, but one of the greatest is that the cadence of the calendar draws our attention from one aspect of God to another in a beautiful, steady rhythm. We can make one thing our focus for a season, knowing that soon enough that season will be passed and we will be moving on to the next.

In the Old Testament God gave his people different feasts and fasts to keep through the year. In much the same way, the church calendar is a litany of feasting and fasting. Lent, Advent, 12 Days, Easter, Pentecost--each of these bring with them a season of joy or sorrow, of feasting or fasting. Each of them cause us to question--why? Why are we celebrating the day? What has God commanded us to remember? What is important about this dish, this day, this season? Each of them focus in on a different part of God's work. And, what more useful as we observe these traditions than a beautiful cookbook focused on the traditional recipes and observation rituals of each season?

 Divided into sections based on each feast, ordered according to the calendar for ease of use, A Continual Feast has been the perfect addition to my cooking library. Most recipes contain commentary about how that recipe was used traditionally, and what it symbolizes in the feast (which I find personally interesting, and is also helpful as the children ask questions!). The recipes range from very, very old--I loved the reprint of a recipe from the 1600s involving pheasant feathers "cunningly set about" a roast bird--to more modern ideas like the Pentecost Cake that is piped with symbols of the holy spirit. Most of them comfortably tiptoe between ancient and modern.

Some of the feast recipes can be fairly complicated, but they are doable and not intended for daily use. I found many of the more labor intensive Christmas recipes were actually made well in advance, because traditionally that was how it was done. Other recipes are fairly simple and meant to either round out the feast or be a daily go-to in seasons where creativity is the key (Lent can be a challenge!!).

All in all, this book has been a delight and has added a great deal to our year. I haven't pictured my personal copy because, well, a few encounters with the counter have made it not particularly pretty. But only because it has been so well loved.

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