I can say without a doubt that Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery, by Benedictine Fr. Dominic Garramone (known for his “Baking Bread” PBS cooking show earlier this decade) is a keeper of a picture book. That’s no small feat, as good picture books are in the minority of those published.
Here’s how: when I was looking for my review copy of Brother Jerome to get the some details, I couldn’t find it anywhere. A search of the house found it half-hidden under a certain seven-year-old’s bed. Even though our son is an independent reader, we have a tradition of reading picture books together, so I had read it to all my kids earlier that week as a kind of “test” of its appeal. (I’ve done this with other children’s books that have come in for reviews; sadly, many get rejected this way).
Since then, various family conversations consist of said seven-year-old repeats something chuckle-inducing from the book. He’ll remember how the angels joke that St. Michael and his armies will be coming down to the bakery for a coffee break, or when Brother Jerome’s guardian angel Gus (short for Gustibus) tells him to open the bakery door and that “they will come flying in.”
And they do, both angels, and eventually, happy human customers. Brother Jerome learns about persistence, making the best of every situation, gratitude and cheerfulness, and we learn along with him. The only thing missing was a great bread or corn muffin recipe to go along with all the wonderful, mouth-watering descriptions of baked treats.
That’s where Thursday Night Pizza: Father Dominic’s Favorite Pizza Recipes, Father Dom’s other new book, fits in beautifully. At the Abbey, pizza is most often eaten on Thursday night, during the Benedictine community’s tradition of “Haustas.”
Haustas, (Latin for “to be filled” or “satisfied”) is the weekly night of snacks & relaxation in Father Dom’s Benedictine community. Because Friday is a monastery day of fast & abstinence, many pizzas would be off -limits, so Thursday night becomes the time when pizza, snacks and special drinks are provided as the brothers play board games, debate politics and otherwise catch up.
I enjoy cooking and especially sweets baking, but I’ve never been consistently successful at breads or pizzas. Thursday Night Pizza encourages me to try again to make homemade. With Father Dom’s easy-to-follow recipes and careful descriptions of different crusts, American-style and Italian-style crust (I’ll be going with the Italian), I feel a new confidence to try, and soon. More importantly, the brothers’ weekly tradition of “haustas,” of relaxation & snacks, challenges our family to carve out a new fun tradition of our own.