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Posted on Feb 4, 2016 |

Rita’s Recipe: A Dip for Lent

Rita’s Recipe: A Dip for Lent

Once served only during Lent, pretzels are made in the shape of crossed arms -- which used to be a common posture during prayer. Whether you make your pretzels or buy them, you'll want to share this beer dip -- it's that good! Photo by Cindy Kalamajka, courtesy FreeImages.

Once served only during Lent, pretzels are made in the shape of crossed arms — which used to be a common posture during prayer. Whether you make your pretzels or buy them, you’ll want to share this beer dip — it’s that good! Photo by Cindy Kalamajka, courtesy FreeImages.

Lent begins Wednesday, February 10 this year. It’s a meaningful time to reflect on the symbolism of foods eaten during Lent, like hot cross buns, pretzels and beer (yes, beer!). Today I’m sharing some interesting information about pretzels and beer. Later on in the Lenten season, we’ll chat about hot cross buns.


Pretzels: The pretzel has a deep spiritual meaning for Lent. In fact, it was the ancient Christian Lenten bread as far back as the fourth century. In the old Roman Empire, the faithful kept a very strict fast all through Lent: no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat. They made small breads of water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms, for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads “little arms.” From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term “pretzel.”


Since Lent is a time of prayer the pretzel is an appropriate symbol. It consists only of water and flour, thus proclaiming Lent as a time of fasting.


Although many people eat pretzels today all through the year and they take them together with beer in taverns and restaurants, that is only an accidental habit. In many areas of Europe, pretzels are served only from Ash Wednesday to Easter, thus keeping the ancient symbolism alive.


For more wonderful information on everyday Catholic life, check out this site which is where I adapted the above information:


Beer: Once upon a time, German monks ate nothing for the entirety of the Lenten fast. No bread, no salad, no fruit—nothing. Beat that.


How did they survive, you ask? By imbibing large quantities of heavy, calorie rich beer, of course!


Around 700 years ago, German monks in the town of Einbeck developed a specific style of malty, dark, high alcohol beer to help sustain them during intense periods of fasting. This beer became known as Bock, a corruption of the name Einbeck [and also the German word for “goat” — ed.] Later, discontented with the strength of Bock style beer, monks developed an even stronger variant known as Doppelbock, meaning double Bock. This beer was so laden with nutrition that some dubbed it “liquid bread.”


Now, these beers were so delicious that the monks began to wonder if they were contrary to the spirit of Lenten penance. Being faithful sons of the Church, they decided to consult the pope. On the journey to Rome, however, the beer was subjected to extreme weather conditions, causing it to spoil and turn sour. When the pope tasted it, he was so appalled by the spoiled beer that he immediately deemed it an excellent Lenten penance.


Now if you want to find out what suggested beers are given for Lenten fare, check out  – this is the site where I got the above information.  

Ranch Beer Dip


What a perfect recipe to share – it uses both beer and is eaten with pretzels! Plus it’s a given for our Super Bowl party. Thanks to Marie, an avid reader of my Community Press column, for passing this recipe on to me. “I got it from my Taste of Home cookbook,” she said.


Get ready to share the recipe – it’s that good!


  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup beer, your favorite alcoholic or non
  • 1 pouch ranch salad dressing mix (the kind you make with mayonnaise and milk)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar


Beat everything except cheese together until smooth.  Stir in cheese. Serve with pretzels.  


Rita Heikenfeld.

Rita Heikenfeld.

Rita Nader Heikenfeld writes a weekly syndicated 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 Certified Culinary Professional and Certified Modern Herbalist,  the Culinary Professional for Jungle Jim’s Eastgate, and a media personality with a cable show and YouTube videos. In 2014 she was inducted into the Escoffier Hall of Fame. 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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