Beans, the Lord’s Ascension and You

As I write, I am in Rome.  We have lovely customs in our wonderful Roman Catholic Church, including special blessings on certain feast days, often tied to the changing of the seasons… in Rome, that is.  It’s the Roman Church, after all.

Today, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, was decorated with the opportunity to bless beans.

In Rome at this time of year the “broad beans” are usually at their peak. This year Ascension is a little late and the beans are almost done.  However, I managed to find some this morning at the Campo de’ Fiori.    Tonight I shall satisfy my longing for this particular simple fare of broad beans with pecorino and cold white wine… the combination of which is a material proof of God’s love.

Here’s a shot from last year.

The connection of this time of year in the Roman calendar with beans is ancient indeed.

During May in ancient Rome the master of the house would walk around the dwelling on the nights of the Lemuria (9,11, 13) waving beans to ward of evil spirits.  On the Kalends of June (1 June) there was a pagan feast of the Sacrum Carnae Deae when beans and bacon were offered in sacrifice and consumed.  In fact, the June Kalends were called Kalendae Fabariae.  Latin faba is, of course, “bean”, and the Italian is still the same, “fave”.  The essentials don’t change much.  For this feast the ancient Romans ate a mess of beans and bacon.  Any excuse, right?  In his Fasti the poet Ovid writes of beany blessings:

Pinguia cur illis gustentur larda Kalendis
Mixtaque cur calido sit faba farre, rogas?
Prisca dea est, aliturque cibis quibus ante solebat,
Nec petit adscitas luxuriosa dapes.

I enjoy Ovid… it just rolls and rolls out so effortlessly.  In any event, beans and bacon were as big back then as they are now.  It’s amazing how consistent we are.  You get much of the same effect with your fave and pecorino cheese (salty fat).

And don’t forget the awe inspiring fave in tegame.

The the ancient Roman cookbook complied in the 4th c. and attributed to Apicius (US HERE – UK HERE), there are various bean and pea recipes. A good one.  HERE and HERE

Pisam Vitellianam sive fabam (Peas or Beans à la Vitellius)

Pisam coques lias. teres piper, ligusticum, gingiber, et super condimenta mittis vitella ovorum, quae dura coxeris, mellis uncias III, liquamen, vinum et acetum. haec omnia mittis in caccabum et condimenta quae trivisti. adiecto oleo ponis ut ferveat. condies pisam, lias, si aspera fuerit. melle mittis et inferes.

Peas or beans with yolks are made thus: cook the peas, smoothen them; crush pepper, lovage, ginger, and on the condiments put hard boiled yolks, ounces of honey, also liquamen, wine and vinegar; mix and place all in a sauce pan; the finely chopped condiments with oil added, put on the stove to be cooked; with this flavor the peas which must be smooth; and if they be too harsh in taste add honey and serve.

If you don’t have a lot of liquamen, use garum (or substitute colatura or even Vietnamese fish sauce, which is similar).

A Bean Blessing is not, alas, in the Rituale Romanum, but another blessing, for any sort of food, can be used.  Bring lots of beans, perhaps along with bacon, to Father and ask him to bless them.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, [beans], and let it be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

There is a separate blessing for bacon (“lard”… ascension of the lard?):

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, lard, and let it be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

I hope you will all be “full of beans” for this Feast of the Ascension of the Lord!

Fr. Hunwicke once had a fun post about Ascension Beans! HERE

He includes the blessing for grapes… “Benedic +, Domine, hos fructos novos vineae…”.

 

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6 Responses to Beans, the Lord’s Ascension and You

  1. Jonathan Marshall says:

    I’m delighted that in England and Wales the Ascension is once again being celebrated on its actual day. It was “transferred” to the nearest Sunday back in 2006 but today is a Holy Day of Obligation again – Deo gratias!

  2. Mario Bird says:

    Any blessing for Maximum Beans? Or at least a recipe? Even a couplet?

    ” Next morning old Grandpa arose; he made a hearty meal,
    And sniffed the air and said: `By Gosh! how full of beans I feel.”

  3. Richard A says:

    I liked Fr. Hunwicke’s post, and particularly the comment following. Given Marcion’s slander on the Incarnation, I think it would be great to bring a blessing of beans back to the Ascension Mass.

  4. KAS says:

    I like the version of APICUS translated by Grocock with the recipes tested by Grainger. Uses a lot of newer research to help with interpretation and to attempt to get closer to what they were. It is a book worth having for certain. Fascinating.

    Your food posts always end up making me hungry. We have a place (one of many around here with “familia” in its name) that makes soft tacos where you can get one filled with bacon, bean, cheese, and an assortment of other things, I like to add potato or occasionally chorizo, and their homemade salsa. Yummy! You know you found the right place when the lot is full and the drive through line runs a block down the street and there is as much Spanish to hear as English.

    Then, we have a new sort of soft taco place that is called Mad Taco, and it is a completely insane sort of place and the tacos are their chef’s own creations, tortilla and all; quite amazing too, and nothing like the first place.

    Food is such a blessing from God. He gives the ingredients and and talent for cooking and we get to enjoy the results.

    When I read Apicus, I end up wondering if Mary used garum and the other versions of the sauce since the Romans imported it everywhere they had outposts, even when it was made locally too. I guess like wine, there were still places that did it better than others.

  5. Titus says:

    Fava and bacon . . . sounds like vignarola. Velavevodetto ai Quiriti’s take is exquisite.

  6. clarinetist04 says:

    And all this time I thought you were referring to “Beans” Faggioli. He could use a blessing too.