That Which is Bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? – Isaiah

Category: Observations and Thoughts

Another Lent

I notice that there haven’t been any posts here since near the end of last year’s Great Fast. But here we are again, so it’s time to post again.

During Lent, my family and I aim for meals that are austere without being unappealing, so many of the “recipes” posted here are hardly recipes at all — just thoughts about combining ingredients into simple and (I hope) fairly tasty meals. Simplicity is important not only because it’s an expression of the Lenten spirit, but because the many church services often leave us with less time to cook.

I’ve tried to make this blog look a bit austere too, almost the antithesis of a Food Blog: no statements that recipes are To Die For, and especially none of the food photography that some people call “food porn.” Many modern cookbooks are essentially photo albums with some recipes around the edges, and I try not to follow their example.

May we all have a blessed and fruitful 2013 Lenten Season.

The Fathers on fasting

Here is a fine collection of teachings  by the Fathers on fasting. Recommended.

A leader of a community asked Abba Poemen: “How can I gain the fear of God?” Abba Poemen replied: “How indeed can we gain the fear of God when we have bellies full of cheese and jars of salted fish?”

On the same site I found this article on the health benefits of fasting, based on a study of the monks of Mt. Athos.

Thanks to St George Greek Orthodox Church, Greenville SC, for posting this collection.


How to get fat while keeping the fast:

Try to subsist on pasta.

Many people do this, and “can’t understand” how they can gain weight while keeping a strict fast.

If you try to live on pasta, with various sauces on top, you’ll always be hungry, and unless you have more discipline than almost everyone, you’ll end up eating a lot of pasta. And you will get fat.

Yes, go ahead and make use of pasta, but make sure you’re also eating beans (and peas & lentils), whole grains, green and yellow vegetables, and so on. Eating less will seem much more imaginable.

Mother Gavrilia and fasting

Mother Gavrilia of blessed memory spent much time traveling in the service of Christ to places that separated her from the daily liturgical life of the Church. Especially during these times, the advice of her spiritual father Archimandrite Lazarus Moore stood her in good stead:

  ‘Fasting is one of our greatest weapons against the Evil One. I will repeat what Father Lazarus told me once. In 1962, I went to the USA. I stayed there a long time and travelled to many states. The letters of Father Lazarus were a great help… He used to say: “Go anywhere you like, do whatever you like, as long as you observe Fasting”… Because not a single arrow of the Evil One can reach you when you fast. Never.’

— Ascetic of Love, the biography of Mother Gavrilia, pub. Series Talanto. pg. 200.

St Symeon the New Theologian on Fasting

Let each one of us keep in mind the benefit of fasting… For this healer of our souls is effective, in the case of one to quieten the fevers and impulses of the flesh, in another to assuage bad temper, in yet another to drive away sleep, in another to stir up zeal, and in yet another to restore purity of mind and to set him free from evil thoughts. In one it will control his unbridled tongue and, as it were by a bit, restrain it by the fear of God and prevent it from uttering idle and corrupt words. In another it will invisibly guard his eyes and fix them on high instead of allowing them to roam hither and thither, and thus cause him to look on himself and teach him to be mindful of his own faults and shortcomings.

Fasting gradually disperses and drives away spiritual darkness and the veil of sin that lies on the soul, just as the sun dispels the mist. Fasting enables us spiritually to see that spiritual air in which Christ, the Sun who knows no setting, does not rise, but shines without ceasing. Fasting, aided by vigil, penetrates and softens hardness of heart. where once were the vapors of drunkenness it causes fountains of compunction to spring forth.

I beseech you, brethren, let each of us strive that this may happen in us! Once this happens we shall readily, with God’s help, cleave through the whole sea of passions and pass through the waves of the temptations inflicted by the cruel tyrant, and so come to anchor in the port of impassibility.

My brethren, it is not possible for these things to come about in one day or one week! They will take much time, labor, and pain, in accordance with each man’s attitude and willingness, according to the measure of faith and one’s contempt for the objects of sight and thought. In addition, it is also in accordance with the fervor of his ceaseless penitence and its constant working in the secret chamber of his heart that this is accomplished more quickly or more slowly by the gift and grace of God. But without fasting no one was ever able to achieve any of these virtues or any others, for fasting is the beginning and foundation of every spiritual activity.

— Symeon the New Theologian: the Discourses, pub. Paulist Press. pp. 168-169.

On Veggies

Fasting days and seasons ought to be good times to implement some of our good intentions to eat more vegetables. Too often, we just end up having another dinner of spaghetti and canned sauce.

Faith Durand’s very good The Kitchn blog has a nice post entitled 10 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables Every Day.  While it’s not aimed at the Lenten Demographic, it’s useful. Two items I thought were especially helpful:

  • Bulk prep. Set aside time once or twice a week to prepare a lot of vegetables: Chop, blanch, pre-cook, etc. Store them in containers in the fridge. They’ll be ready to season and reheat, or to use as ingredients in other meals.
  • Remember frozen vegetables! Some people claim that eating a lot of fresh vegetables is too expensive. They should check out the frozen vegetables: they’re substantially cheaper than their counterparts in the produce department, and because they’re flash-frozen shortly after picking, they’re usually nutritionally fresher than the “fresh” stuff, which may have endured a long, hot cross-country ride in a truck before you buy it. As a bonus, frozen vegetables are usually pre-chopped and ready to cook straight from the bag.

St. Seraphim of Sarov on Fasting

Once there came to him a mother who was concerned about how she might arrange the best possible marriage for her young daughter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: “Before all else, ensure that he, whom your daughter chooses as her companion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Christian, whatever he may consider himself to be.”

— From a sermon of Metropolitan Philaret, quoted in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, pub. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, pg.xxxiii.