A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Noted for his outstanding stance on all things Catholic, Dr. John Cuddeback is a philosophy professor at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, and a frequent speaker/presenter for the Institute of Catholic Culture, headquartered also in Front Royal. But perhaps Cuddeback’s most noteworthy efforts involve his family garden (really a mini-farm) and his focus on food, family and faith.
A native of Columbia, Maryland, and raised in an ardent Catholic family, Cuddeback not only learned about his faith early on, but he also watched and learned about farming from his father’s passion for gardening. “My father was always interested in growing things,” Cuddeback said, “We had a family garden from my earliest days. He passed on his love of these things to me,” adding that most of what he grows is for use in his household.
Because he tended his family’s garden as a youngster, Cuddeback learned early about caring for crops. “A garden is a significant way of cultivating the earth,” he said. “In gardening most of us can have the opportunity to take care of the soil, to enjoy earth’s bounty, and to improve the soil to promote better crops. For me, gardening and other such homesteading projects were an effort to reconnect not only with the earth but with myself and others.”
Cuddeback admitted that he had to learn the farming craft slowly, and not do too much each year. Farming requires a “prudential judgment of what I and my family can do.” But now with years of experience, he raises assorted crops such as lettuce, chard, squash, cucumbers and fruit that varies from year to year, such as figs, blueberries, blackberries, and honey from their own beehives. He has also raised a cow or two and his farm is home to heritage pigs, which he raises and fattens on acorns, hence his website, http://www.baconfromacorns.com.
Home gardening, or farming, is Cuddeback’s main approach to helping other see how cultivating the earth provides countless benefits. “Sirach 7:15 says: ‘Do not hate toilsome labor, or farm work, which were created by the Most High,’” he said. “I am convinced that cultivating the earth is a unique gift from the Lord that tends to develop good moral dispositions and wisdom in those who do it well.”
He and his wife—who is basically in charge of kitchen efforts—bring the family together by making cooking a family affair, although that is not always easy, he said. “Cooking with home-produced products adds a special joy and satisfaction to work in the kitchen,” Cuddeback said. “It’s also a good reminder of God’s generosity and His desire to be intimately involved in our home life.”
Below is one of his own garden-inspired recipes, a good way to use fall produce:
Easy Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4-6)
John Cuddeback suggests an “extra possibility”: “Put the seeds on the tray next to the squash in the oven, with salt, pepper, and possibly curry (we love the curry). Roast seeds for about the first 20 minutes of the hour of baking and then remove seeds from oven, putting squash back in to complete the hour. Roasted seeds are delicious as a snack or can be added to the soup when served.”
- 1 or 2 butternut squash
- ½ to 1 stick unsalted butter
- Sprinkling of nutmeg
- Salt to taste
- Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seed pods, saving the seeds.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake squash halves face down on a baking tray for about an hour—basically until they can be easily scooped out of the skin.
- In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it browns. Add the scooped-out squash to the saucepan, briefly sautéing the squash. Then add water to cover squash, according to how thick you want the soup.
- Bring the soup to a boil. It is now ready. Prior to serving blend either with a hand wand, or in a large blender. (We prefer the hand wand.) Salt to taste. Try sprinkling some nutmeg when served.
Note: John Cuddeback is the author of the book, True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness.