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
Scouring the internet for Catholic food links, you may come across My Catholic Kitchen. When you do, sit back and relax... take the time to look at the color food photos and the beckoning recipes. Wouldn’t the pull-apart peach cobbler bread or the midnight Mass cinnamon rolls tempt you to shake out the apron and gather measuring tools and mixing bowls?
Yes, so meet the cook, Veronica Gantley, a native Virginian who lives in Norfolk, Virginia. As her website describes her, “Veronica (Vonnie) is a widowed Catholic mom and a Coastal Virginia-based food writer, a not-so-perfect Weight Watcher follower and animal wrangler, with a constant yearning for freshly-baked bread, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, fried chicken and setting off the fire alarm in the pursuit of the perfect recipe….”
Her mom home-cooked for a large family of six children. But Gantley is self-taught, not only about the kitchen basics, but also how to sometimes cook exotic ingredients. That was thanks to her deceased husband, a former member of the Armed Forces. “I had to learn to cook,” she said, “and I used to just try a recipe and see if it worked. And if it didn’t, my husband ate the dishes anyway. Once he came home with ostrich meat and asked me to cook it. I made a stew.” He even brought her kangaroo meat and Gantley cooked it in a slow cooker until tender. “I just told him not to buy exotic food again,” she said.
Although Gantley volunteers in the nurse’s office at St. Pius X school in Norfolk and also has an office job, she concentrates in her free time on posting on her food blog. She launched that back in 2007, and her explanation is very family-oriented: “I thought about my mom and my mother-in-law,” she said. “And all these recipes that we are going to lose when someone passes away, and my mother was the best bread baker ever,” adding her mother never measured any ingredients. “I go around with measuring spoons, and my bread has never tasted quite like hers,” she said. “I did the website as a homage to all these people who have families and friends who are really good cooks.”
Gantley also wanted to include recipes inspired by a saint. To do that, she selected a saint, and then researched his or her feast day. “I wanted to feature a saint and that inspired me,” she said, adding that she incorporated many feast-day recipes, such as that for St. Gregory. His recipe is for cherry ice cream. “It was fun with the kids, and getting them involved in doing some things with the saints… Whenever there was a feast day, my daughter would dress up like the saint and take in one of the recipes to school.”
Looking back over her years of blogging, Gantley said that her Catholic food blogging really helped her to understand her faith better, and it let her preserve all the older-generation recipes today’s cooks would lose. And her blogging has saved them—and strengthened her faith.
Note: Special recipes to look for include Mini Rose Cakes and Saint Rose of Lima; Exaltation of the Holy Cross; and One Bowl Devil’s Food Cake for Michaelmas.
Apple Pie Moonshine
A cheering drink for fall gatherings or to give as gifts to friends.
Half-gallon apple juice
Half-gallon apple cider
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
8 allspice berries, optional
4 cinnamon sticks
1 cracked nutmeg, optional
Half-liter Everclear grain alcohol (190 proof) or vodka
In a large stockpot, about 1 1/2 gallons or larger, combine the juice, cider, the sugars, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, cool, and remove the allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg. Add the Everclear grain alcohol or vodka. Pour the mixture into Mason jars or other pretty jars to give as gifts, and close tightly.