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We like observing saints’ feasts, maybe because we like feasting, period, and any excuse will do. I have in my time made rosary cakes for the Feast of the Holy Rosary and lavender butter for the Assumption, when herbs have traditionally been blessed; my friend Debbie, mother of Annie the Beekeeper, does things like angel hair pasta for St. Michael and All Angels, and “Untidy St. Josephs,” a.k.a. Sloppy Joes, for any feast involving the Most Chaste Spouse. There are all kinds of people out there doing creative foody things in observance of the liturgical year, as sites like Catholic Cuisine attest (take one look at my rosary cake, and you’ll understand why we didn’t attempt that Sacred Heart Cake last Friday).

Anyway, yesterday afternoon the Visiting Graduate Student and I, finding ourselves at loose ends, began to speculate about what a “Nativity of St. John the Baptist” dinner might involve. St. John himself of course was sustained on a limited menu which we weren’t all that tempted to replicate in any literal way. Still, you start murmuring, “Locusts and wild honey . . . locusts and wild honey . . . ,” and sooner or later the Holy Spirit will strike you with inspiration.

What has honey in it? Why, baklava has honey in it, of course. I’d never actually made baklava before, but I did happen to have a pound of phyllo dough hanging around the fridge, crying out to be used for something. We surfed around on the internet for baklava recipes featuring words like “easy;” I can’t now re-find the one we used, but this one is close enough. I used almonds and no vanilla extract, and the end result, I am pleased to say, tasted like baklava.

We had pondered the idea of grasshopper cookies for the locusts, but instead the Visiting Graduate Student made haystacks. His version included butterscotch chips and peanuts as well as chow mein noodles. I suggested that he make little peanut-and-chow-mein-noodle bugs and pour the chocolate-butterscotch meltage over them, but he just looked at me, as people do when your brilliant suggestions have failed to make a dent in the armor of their own vision of things, and in the end the melted goo didn’t turn out to be that pourable anyway, so we had what — assuming the expectation of locusts — looked like a lot of disarticulated legs in chocolate, which was delicious.

John-the-Baptist dessert was easy; what to have for dinner was more of a stretch. We settled on meatloaf, thinking that you could make it look sort of like a camel’s hump . . . you know . . . if he was wearing a girdle of camel’s hair, he had to have done something with the rest of the camel . . . I modified the linked recipe by adding Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion, and I thought it turned out a bit dry, but it wasn’t bad, especially with a topping of vidalia onions browned in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little more honey.

In the middle of all the cooking, my husband called home from work to see what was happening. I told him what we were doing and suggested, jokingly, that he could help us re-enact the story of the birth of John the Baptist by playing Zechariah and being mute until somebody handed him a baby doll. I was kidding, but he liked the idea, so when he came home from work he maintained a cheerful silence (communicating via sign language that he wanted a glass of wine, whereupon his silence grew even more cheerful) and spent some time sketching out a little liturgy involving the reading of the Gospel story, the handing-over of a baby doll, the writing of a note, and the loosing of his tongue to proclaim the Benedictus. All this we did. Aside from some loud and tearful contention over our choice of baby dolls — during the actual liturgy, a pink-romper-wearing, crayon-disfigured pretender to the role of John the Baptist kept trying to insinuate itself into the proceedings — everything went smoothly, and we hope that the whole feast thing will have been enough of a liturgical mnemonic that people will be begging us to repeat it this time next year.

Uh . . . feast days. They totally rock.
[Rating: 100/100]

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