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Posted on May 16, 2013 | 1 comment

Hildegard Cookies and Patron Saints

Hildegard Cookies and Patron Saints

The topics of St. Hildegard's many famous visions included food.

The topics of St. Hildegard’s many famous visions included food.





The sister of Mary, Martha was admonished by Jesus because she was irritated that, instead of helping her cook a meal for Jesus, Mary just sat and listened to Jesus. Jesus was visiting Lazarus and his two sisters. Jesus told Martha that all her fuss was distracting her from hearing His message. So we think of Martha as the patron saint of housewives, cooks and even wait-staff, since she was the one who served Jesus. But the next time he visited, she stopped cooking and sat with him.



He’s the patron saint of butchers, and he’s associated with bacon. He is frequently shown with pigs and it’s possible that he used pig fat in his healing medicinals. He was adopted by pig butchers as their patron saint.




Another patron saint of cooks, he was  a 3rd century Roman deacon who was sentenced to death by slow roasting over an open fire, but was supposedly so filled with joy and faith that he told is torturers, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”




He was a farmer whose plowing was said to be accomplished with the help of three angels, and so is the patron saint of farmers.




He was a monk in England who died in the 800s, and had a way with birds and animals, performing miracles with them. It is said he spent his days in a well, water up to his neck, practicing his devotions. I suppose the connection with water is why he’s the patron saint of fish.




St. Vincent was a 3rd century martyr. He was tortured and wound up being roasted on a gridiron. After his death, the wine makers made him their patron saint. Another Urban was a bishop in France during the 4th century and had to hide in a vineyard from his political enemies. While he was hiding, he converted the vineyard workers. After that he went from vineyard to vineyard, spreading the gospel.




He was the son of a Flemish nobleman in the 1100s and it’s said that he could “bilocate,” meaning he was seen simultaneously working in the fields and going to Mass. Because this took a lot of energy, he is the patron saint of coffee and coffeehouses, among others.




He was a monk, born in Italy in the 1600s, and was sent by the pope to unite Christians in the face of the Ottoman army. Legend has it that following the victory, the Viennese found sacks of coffee abandoned by the enemy and they didn’t  like the strong taste, so they diluted it with cream and honey. The color of the coffee was like that of the monk’s robes of the Capuchin order, so they named it cappuccino.




There are several patron saints of beer, but Augustine is my favorite. He lived n the 5th century and had a freewheeling, liquor-laden lifestyle. He earned saint status after he gave up his lifestyle and became the patron saint of beer.




Hildegard was born in Germany over 900 years ago and was a mystic who received visions. One subject of her visions was eating – the kinds of foods to promote or inhibit one’s health – foods of joy and foods of sadness. Hildegard cookies are a popular monastery offering today and are supposed to help the aging process and give a positive outlook. I think it’s the Bible spices of cinnamon and cloves that do this!



hildegard cookiesMy newest favorite cookie. Absolutely addictive with just a hint of spice and a crunchy bite. For step by step photos, check out my blog Cooking with Rita at


1-1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

Couple pinches of salt, about 1/4 teaspoon

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ea: cinnamon and nutmeg

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter with brown sugar until fairly light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Whisk dry ingredients together and add half to mixture. Blend. Add rest of dry ingredients and blend. Dough may be too soft to work with so you can put in refrigerator to chill. Form “walnut size balls” (about an inch) and place on sprayed or parchment lined cookie sheet. Press flat. If you want, insert slivers of almond in the shape of a cross in the middle of the cookie.


Bake 12-14 minutes just until edges are golden.


Rita Heikenfeld.

Rita Heikenfeld.

Rita Nader Heikenfeld writes a weekly cooking column and blog for the Community Press, appears every Thursday on the Son Rise Morning Show, and is the author of several cookbooks. An adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, she is Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional  (CCP) and is a Certified Modern Herbalist. She lives “in the sticks” outside Batavia, Ohio with her family, where they heat with wood, raise chickens for eggs, and grow their own produce and herbs. You’ll find all her previous recipes featured on The Catholic Beat here.

 Rita’s Bible Foods segment airs on the Son Rise Morning Show every Thursday morning at 7:22 am (rebroadcast Friday at 6:02 am). Tune in to hear her discuss the history behind each recipe and the scripture verses that inspired it. And of course, for cooking tips!

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1 Comment

  1. While open pit, slow roasting of Deacons may sound tempting, they’re not very tasty. They’re simply too tough and ornery. Rita knows this.