My Patroness of Cooking

August 07, 2017
By Holly Jennings

I was searching my book shelves for a copy of The Sun Also Rises or For Whom the Bell Tolls. Instead, I found Lives of the Saints, a relic from when I was an art history student, before I’d struck a path to editing cookbooks and writing about food. Its pagan orange edging and ecclesiastical purple binding with faux leather texture and faux gold stamping beckoned. I picked it up and discovered it is the perfect size, fitting easily in my hands.


I don’t believe I ever spent much time with Lives of the Saints when I was an art history student. But now, looking through it, I found a code I’d overlooked, a signpost for the turn off from art to food.


When you open Lives of the Saints, you come to a full title page featuring a group portrait of several saints. After that each saint is given his or her own short write-up, some with their likeness included. The book is organized chronologically: It starts on January 1 and proceeds to the end of the year, with a saint for each day.



Some of the saints are patrons or patronesses of specific professions or health conditions or categories of people, like orphans. Take St. Apollonia. She is the Patroness of Dentists. In the year 248 or 249, this Virgin and Martyr “fell prey to a howling mob venting its fury on any Christians it could find.” The mob knocked out all of her (more…)

A French Interlude: The Gentle Beauty of the Loire Valley

June 02, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Heading down and out of the narrow, winding streets of the medieval hill-top town of Sancerre, we realized we forgot to pick up some of the ham of Sancerre, a local specialty which is smoked over vine roots (sarments de vigne). We continued our descent, assuming we’d be able to find it in the surrounding area. Stopping not more than 10 miles away at a neighboring village, we asked a baker if she knew where else we might purchase it. It is available in Sancerre, she said, only Sancerre.

Monsieur Fortin’s Charcuterie Artisanale and Traiteur is strategically located on the Place Henri IV, in the heart of Henrichment, a town noted for its symmetrically planned central square. We stopped at the shop to buy some Pâté de Campagne, but soon spied saucisson sec, a dry-cured sausage with a signature dusting of edible white mold, hanging from the ceiling. When we requested one, Monsieur Fortin proudly explained that they are his spécialité de la maison (house made specialty). (more…)