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The Gift to Be Simple

September 20, 2000|RUSS PARSONS

Food, it is too commonly said these days, is a religious experience. Usually this is lorded about in connection to a dessert that is either "divine" or "sinful." The fact that those two words can be used interchangeably tells you just about all you need to know.

Not so with Victor-Antoine D'Avila Latourrette's sweet little book "In Celebration of the Seasons" (Liguori/Triump, $24.95). Actually, that's Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila Latourrette. He's a Benedictine monk. He's also quite a good cookbook writer: This is his fourth. (He has two nonfood books besides.)

"Celebration" is a different kind of cookbook. It doesn't have four-color photographs (certainly no gastro-porn!) and it doesn't have wildly inventive recipes. The food seems somewhat rough--in the sense of unpolished but not in the sense of crude. The ingredients are simple and their combinations tasteful, without being showy.

In fact, this is a deceptively plain little package, but what else would you expect from a monastery? As Latourrette observes in his introduction, "The character of monastic cookery is usually known for its simplicity, sobriety, wholesomeness, and basic good taste."

You get the feeling that this is the real dealwhat a working religious community eats on a day-in, day-out basis. It's not food that will blow you away, but it's not food you'll tire of either. Most important, it is food that is particular, intimately tied to a place, a time and a sensibility.

An added benefit is Latourrette's choice of the epigrams that are scattered throughout, quoting everyone from Georges Blanc to Thomas Merton. I particularly like Teilhard de Chardin's "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God."

Now that is divine.

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