Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Taste of Heaven!

If you are following my blogs of the last few years, you will perhaps remember that I have Franciscan relatives who made a very deep impression upon me as a child. And now as I move well into the last half of my life, I am becoming even more aware of those people who formed me in lots of ways.

Actually, there are three Franciscan relatives, Sr. Englebert Borer, Br. Adrian Borer and Sr. Julie Ann Borer. Sr. Englebert and Br. Adrian are brother and sister-- part of my  maternal grandfather's family. There were 15 children in that family. (There is a photo of that family on one of my earlier blogs.)  Sr. Julie Ann is my Mom's first cousin, so my second cousin. Sr. Julie Ann was close to my Mom's age. She is still living. Before Vatican II and permission was granted for religious to go back to baptismal names, her name was Bertha Ann. Bertha was Sr. Julie's mother's name. And Bertha was a sister to my maternal grandmother. I am related to her on both sides of that family. I guess that one would say double cousins.

I really did not know Sr. Englebert very well. She did not seem to visit us in Nebraska as much as her younger brother (Br. Adrian) did or neither her niece, (Sr. Julie Ann).But both Br. Adrian and Sr. Julie Ann were almost annual guests at our home.

Both of them were great cooks. Both of them became famous, especially for their baking skills. And as I grew up, thinking and discerning a religious vocation, I thought about being involved in cullinary arts as well.

However, I was also attracted to educating and functioning in our main apostalate here at Mount Michael. I had many wonderful teachers here at Mount Michael, especially in the fields of literature and theology. Those fields of academia were very attractive to me and I knew that one day I wanted to be teaching as well. My senior English Literature teacher was at that time Miss Jean Troy. She was a great inspiration for me and instilled in me the desire to teach literature. She was the teacher who introduced me to John Steinbeck.

And being a full time teacher and dealing with all the other responsibilites one acquires as a monk, I never really had the time or freedom to do things in the kitchen. But now... since I am freed a bit of classroom duties and endless papers to grade, I do have some freedom to fulfill a dream that was deferred for many years. And I must say that I really enjoy it.

Sr. Julie Ann's superiors at first tried to direct her in the way of teaching, but her real love was the kitchen. It took a few years before she could fulfill her dream as well. I am sure that I will never come close to her performance in cullinary arts or the many years she provided home-cooked meals for her community, but I am very grateful for her insipiration.
She is pictured below with some her baked goods.

Here are some of the comments Sr. Bertha Ann made in 1959: "I entered the convent thinking I'd be
put into the cooking field immediately. But when I was asked to try teacher training, I was ready to 
turn around and go home. Every time I saw Reverend Mother, I asked her when I could start cooking, but it was only after two years that my wish was granted."

My great uncle, Br. Adrian Borer spent most of his religious life in San Antonio, Texas. Br. Adrian as well, a great baker. I must admit that I was enamered by him. When I was in elementray school and dreaming about what I would be as a religious, indeed, my dreams had much to do with cooking and baking as he did.

I have a copy of the letter that was sent out to his confreres of the Sacred Heart Province, when Br. Adrian died. It was written by Lawrence Jagdfeld, OFM -- June 15, 1983. Here are some quotes from the letter: "When word reached us of Br. Adrian's death, there was a lot of crying among the poor people of San Jose. Thus did Herb Jones, OFM sum up the reaction of the people to the death of a man who had taken on the character of a grandfather to the people of South San Antonio. Br. Adrian's death brings to a close the simple life of service to the fraternity and service to the poor."

Below is a photo of Br. Adrian with his famous bread!

I realize that this photo is not the best, but when I contacted the archives of the Province of Br. Adrian, this is the best they could do. However, there was a neat note written along side of the photo. It follows: "It is always a treat for the community at San Jose when Br. Adrian, the cook, makes us some of his bread. The smell of it in the oven penetrates the air in the halls. In a few days it will all be penetrating our bellies! Thanks Brother, for all your work."

Also the past summer I actually spoke with some of the Franciscans who knew Br. Adrian. They all of course, went on and on about his cooking and baking, but one of them also added an interesting little ancedote. Br. Adrian liked to smoke cigars. I do remember this. But this particularly Franciscan remembered that even when Br. Adrain was baking, he would be smoking a cigar. Interesting!!!

So I too have inherited an itch to cook and bake. It is really very rewarding to do so for our students. Boys love good food! They are always hungry! So I have learned over the past years that these boys even like the garden stuff. I freeze as much as I possibly can from the garden-- especially rhubarb, pumpkins and apples. So throughout the school year the MM students get to feast on pumpkin bars and bread, rhubarb/strawberry crisp, apple crisp, and when we have enough bananas -- banana bread and bars.

It is a bit of challenge to bake for such a great number, but I really like the challenge. Below are a few photos of what it takes to provide enough pumpkin bars for the whole instruction.

Each sheet can be cut into 70 square bars and 4 sheet trays is enough for one meal for everyone. The final touch is sprinkling some powdered sugar on the top of the bars. They boys really like that!

Preparing and baking these items is very rewarding for me. But it is even more rewarding it see how much everyone enjoys them.

I am always reminded of how food and banquets are treated in Scripture. Often times during the season of Advent, we are reminded of how wonderful the heavenly banquet will be--in addition to the choicest wines!!!

I believe with all my heart, that the saying: Food is a way to a boy's heart-- is very true.

Mount Michael students continue to enjoy!!


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