The Swiss Guard take readers on a photographic and culinary journey in The Vatican Cookbook. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Swiss Guard cook up a rare book recipe

By  Regina Lordan, Catholic News Service
  • April 22, 2019

The Vatican Cookbook: 500 Years of Classic Recipes, Papal Tributes and Exclusive Images of Life and Art at the Vatican by the Pontifi￾cal Swiss Guard. (Sophia Institute Press, 204 pages, $41.45 on

During an era in which coffee￾table books collect dust while handheld social media consumes idle time, there seems little need for another large hardback to join the lot on bookstore discount shelves. But The Vatican Cookbook stands out as an extraordinary and remark￾able collection holding within its pages 500 years of recipes, histor y and photographs.

An epic undertaking as both a tribute to and insight from the storied Pontifical Swiss Guard, The Vatican Cookbook is a culinary and artistic dream to lovers of food, history, culture and art. Trend￾touting diet books and celebrity￾created recipe collections can sit on those shelves, lamentable in comparison to the magnitude of this culinary endeavour.

Such a project takes a team. Multi-cookbook-author-turned￾Swiss Guard David Geisser led fellow guard and pastry chef Erwin Niederberger and former Cmdr. Daniel Anrig to compile an extensive repertoire of recipes. Katarzyna Artymiak, in co-ordi￾nation with her twin sister, Anna Artymiak, illustrated the recipes, quaint anecdotes and scenery of Rome and Vatican City. The photography shows a veteran eye for artistry, captured in close-up images of finely grated parmesan over charred fennel as well as broad vistas of the Vatican Gardens.

Recipes aside, readers will find themselves on a tour throughout this beautiful part of the world, seeing special sights and reading unique stories from contributors. Take a look into the annual May 6 swearing-in ceremony of the Swiss Guard, hear about a jovial personal encounter between a guard and the Pope during overnight duty, and discover St. John Paul II’s un￾relenting request while recovering from his assassination attempt.

Appropriately so, the recipes are what make the book extraor￾dinary. The collection includes papal favorites from the home countries of Argentina, Germany and Poland. Here you will find such treats as the sweetly sugared “alfajores,” rustic suckling pig and dumplings and juicy, complex-fla￾vored Polish “fleischvogel.

It also includes favorites served up in the barracks of the Swiss Guards. The Polish Congrega￾tion of Albertine Sisters Serving the Poor run the kitchen; the broad smiling faces of two of the women religious appear in a crisp, two-page spread.

The versatile collection of fa￾vourites continues to include Christmas in Vatican City and summers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.

The recipes are clearly written and easy enough for an adventur￾ous beginner willing to take a risk. But the recipes are genuine to their traditional roots.

Some of the recipes call for hard-to-find or seasonal foods, such as saffron threads, grapeseed oil, mascarpone triple cream and sprig mugwort.

But don’t be discouraged, other than this being a source for the hungry and curious historian, there are a few simple dishes, such as eggplant mozzarella and chocolate gingerbread.

Feeling indulgent after all that rich risotto with smoked eel followed by the sweet Christmas pastry “grittibanze”?

Consider joining the Swiss Guards in taking action to end global hunger as they invite readers to contribute to the Caritas Inter￾nationalis program One Human Family, Food For All.

(Lordan is a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, an online resource for Catholic family cat￾echesis.)

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