November 20, 2012
Thanksgiving is almost here. Are you struggling with “cooking the bird?” If so, Brother Edmund McCullough, O.P., has just the words for you as he relates his own kitchen nightmare. The two necessary rooms in a Dominican priory are the chapel and the refectory. In the chapel we praise God and preach Him to the world. In the refectory, however, the community eats its meals. The fraternal bonds that unite us in the proclamation of the Word of God are forged here in daily living. Good cooking, therefore, is essential to the happiness of the brethren. However, this is a great peril in a novitiate community, because new and unskilled novices are sometimes given this task. I was the head cook for a Sunday night meal. I hadn’t done much planning for the meal because I had a clear idea of what to make. It would be a typical modern American meal. The menu consisted of buffalo chicken sandwiches, fries, some salad, and milkshakes for dessert. Stages of Meal Prep: 1. Assemble salad and apply dressing (this went pretty smoothly). 2. Empty entire jug of buffalo sauce into pot and heat on stove. 3. Cook chicken patties and fries in oven. 4. Submerge cooked chicken patties into buffalo sauce and place on hamburger bun, allowing the excess buffalo sauce to soak into the bread as well. Unbeknownst to me, that jug of buffalo sauce contained 272 servings. Twenty friars dined that night. Some of them had served the Province of St. Joseph for over 50 years as priests. It was a disaster. Friars were sweating as they bravely ate what was put before them (cf. Luke 10:8). Meanwhile I was in the back, trying to make the dessert (milkshakes) using a food processor. Milk, ice cream, and chocolate syrup covered the counter. I discovered later that what I needed was a blender. You don’t want your dinner inedible because of lack of preparation. Neither do you want your friar preacher to compose his homily between the chair and the ambo. A lack of nourishment is the result in both instances. If we learn responsibility in the kitchen as novices, we will be able to preach the mystery of salvation to a struggling world as priests. Prior to terrorizing Dominicans at the mercy of his cooking, Brother Edmund McCullough, O.P., was a FOCUS missionary. While serving as a FOCUS missionary at NYU, he met the Dominicans at Saint Joseph in Greenwich Village.