Book Review: A Taste of Heaven

Extras, Food & Wine, Spiritual Travel, Travel Books & Movies — By on August 7, 2009 at 6:00 am

Taste of Heaven Madeline ScherbOne of the biggest draws of travel is sampling new food, whether it’s finding a beach shack on California’s Central Coast that grills up the best fish tacos, or that street cart in Vietnam selling the tastiest bowl of pho. We never thought monasteries could be a foodie haven until flipping through A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns by Madeline Scherb, which hits shelves today.

Part travel guide, part cookbook,  the book offers itineraries for monasteries open to the public, history, recipes, and shopping guides. And while some people work to live, the book points out that nuns and monks live to pray. But the work they do, whether it’s making a Trappist ale or monastery cheeses, is done mindfully, because the monks and nuns believe every action-no matter how small-is an expression of something holy. And the author believes “that’s why the food tastes so heavenly!”

Pear PastryYou’ll find cool facts, like how monasteries in the Middle Ages each had a little clos (enclosed vineyard) where the monks made wine for Mass and sold the extra to guests (as they still do today). You can even try making dishes yourself by following the recipes, such as for Brother Victor’s Pear Clafoutis, pictured. If you’re looking for the perfect ingredient, such as Trappist cheese, turn to the shopping guide. But if you’d rather taste the authentic dishes made by the monks and nuns themselves, find out how to get there with the book’s suggested itineraries. Next on my travel wish list? The Genesee Abbey in Upstate New York to taste the Monks’ Choice Sampler of breads, which offers seven wholesome flavors whose recipes the monks have spent decades perfecting.

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