Fr. Z’s Kitchen and NEW BOOK: Patum Piperium and Christ The Liturgy

A little while ago, a reader in Blighty sent me some Patum Piperium, having described his use of it as a fine smear over well-toasted bread.

“Patum Piperium!”, I piped up. “That’s interesting!”

He sent me some.  It is very good.  Essentially, what we have in Patum Piperium – “Gentleman’s Relish”, apparently developed in the early 19th c., is a very strong flavored butter with at least 60% anchovy and a secret concoction of herb.

Having enjoyed a few breakfasts of toast with Patum and strong black tea, and having seen that Patum is prohibitively expensive to ship to these USA, I determined to make my own.  I ranged about the interwebs, looking for the solutions of others, since it was a cosmic inevitability that others have had the same desire.   I found various attempts, which all circled about the same basic concept: flavored butter, lots of anchovy, herbs to taste.

This morning – it being Friday – I decided to make my own patum, which I knew wouldn’t be Piperium, but which would be pretty good anyway.    A taste test was in order.  Besides, today is the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, and there’s something really fishy about the Jesuits.

Most of the mis en place for this experiment.  As it turned out I didn’t use any of the Lea & Perrins.  The small white container is the official Gentleman’s Relish.

I won’t bore you with the process.  However, I ground together, extremely finely, dried thyme and white peppercorn.   Pinch of nutmeg and a smattering of mashed garlic.  I used anchovy paste from a tube because it’s what I had and politically incorrect butter.   More anchovy than butter.

The color of my Patum isn’t like that of the original.  I suspect that the anchovy they use has been desiccated, which would account for the color and the intense flavor.  You really do want to use only a fine smear on your toast, or it gets to be a little too much.  If the bread is good, you want to taste it, after all.

For consistency, I had just been working the butter and paste together so my patum was rather loose, whereas the Patum came from the fridge.

Since today is the feast of the founder of the Jesuits, there was only one possible mug to use.  HERE

I must say that my patum was tasty.  It wasn’t as intense as Patum Piperium, so I used a little more.   It matched well with the tea, which was as black as the outer edge of your galaxy.

Perhaps it should be called Patum Zedperium?

And, while I have your attention, I just received this from the increasingly admirable Angelico Press.  The title is absolute catnip for me.

Christ The Liturgy by William Daniel


I’ve read now the introduction and spot-read here and there throughout.  The intro instantly grabbed my attention with the summation of an alluring short story about a couple who find 100 year old blueprints for a house. They wind up conforming their lives to the period in which the house was designed, as do the workers who build it.  Get it?   Liturgy?

As I read, I did mental fist pumps, interiorly shouting “YES!” as I crunched my toast and Zedperium.

The writer worked with John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock (which explains the density of his sentences).  He seems to come from a Protestant background, for he attended Calvin College, Duke Divinity and Nashota House.  And, in the list of people he acknowledges, I recognized not a single name other than Stanley Hauerwas.

Do I care that this is not an overtly Catholic book on liturgy?  No, I do not.   This guy is on target.  From Chapter 4:

What is often misunderstood about liturgical action, specifically as it regards Christian liturgy, is that it is neither performative nor initiative. That is, it is not a performance before God to somehow please God or curry favor, nor is the Christian to understand herself as one who initiates contact with God. As outlined in the first chapter, this is a gross misinterpretation of liturgy that stems from a mistranslation and misunderstanding of the word and meaning of leitourgia. Any claim that liturgy is instigated by, or an experience simply to be taken in or enjoyed by, humans reduces liturgical action to a temporary, flattened affair that has little or nothing to do with God, save the gross objectification of the same. Such a reduction bears an implicit, disenchanted anthropology, a conception of humanity that is biological at the best and animalistic at worst. Liturgy, however, does not originate in human action, even though it implicates humanity in its activity and elicits human participation. Liturgy is about creative agency of God who in Christ has gathered human nature into divine reciprocity, a reciprocity that is without beginning or end. The human’s participation in this eternal action is medial by nature. That is, the human is caught up in the divine self-relation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Liturgy hereby names the self relation of eternal reciprocity that God himself is. To worship, therefore – to participate in the liturgical action – is to be involved in an action that begins outside of human agency yet implicates the human in divine agency. In short, liturgy for the human is a medial matter.

And imagine my surprise when I, who talk and write about an the apophatic elements of an encounter with Mystery in liturgical worship, as I spotted his reference to a kata-apo-phatic exercise.

Again, this fellow worked with Milbank and Picstock.  Hence, I am not surprised that he has a section about “metaxological” liturgy.   I have only a fuzzy idea about what the heck that means, but I look forward to reading it.  I think it must have something to do with the “middle voice”, as in Greek grammar.  He talks about the middle voice in his intro.

The author’s intent, inter alia, is to demolish the lib canard that was shoved down our gullets for decades that leitourgia is the “work of the people”.  GAG.   He writes about “liturgical habitation”, with all that the polyvalent word “habit” brings with it.   I liked this part, for his description of Chapter One:

“I go on to show how vital is Paul’s usage of leitourgia for understanding the worshipper’s involvement in Christian liturgy and why the modern mistranslation falsifies her participation in divine action and denigrates the worshipper’s involvement in liturgical action.”

Notice something fun in there?   He does this throughout the intro.

I have often written on this blog and said in talks that the false notions of “active participation” that have dominated our churches, whereby all sorts of lay people have to be drawn into carrying a bowl or reading something, is the opposite of empowering the laity.  It is actually a vile form of condescending clericalism, in the worst sense of the word.

Chapter Two… get this! …

“I bring Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus Confessor into conversation with phenomenology, especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to show how one’s bodily comportment through habitual actions creates certain conditions of possibility for perceiving oneself as a participant in divine action.”

I can’t help but cite a little more.

“In the final chapter, “The Grammar of God,” I deal explicitly with the middle voice as a hermeneutic key for faithfully understanding the nature of Christian liturgy as the work of one for the sake of the many.”


“The purpose of this book is to challenge the reader to reimagine liturgy as it is and is to be experienced by the worshiper, namely as transcendent. Transcendent, however, in a way that gathers the temporal in the celestial through participation in the eternal liturgy who is Jesus the Christ.”

Folks, this is heavy reading.  However, even if you have to punch above your weight when engaging this book, you’ll get a lot out of it.  I suspect there will be more than one “Ah hah!” moment in it for me.

Today, by the way, as the last day of July, would be a great moment for about 1000 of you readers to buy this book (or, hey!, anything!) through my Amazon link.   This has not been a great month.

Christ The Liturgy by William Daniel



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    Perhaps, for an exotic taste, you should add zingiber. (Zedoary would be a bit difficult to find these days, as it was in Theophilus Presbyter’s time.)

  2. zingiber

    A good idea!

  3. mysticalrose says:

    The Catholic philosopher, William Desmond, has articulated an entire metaphysics of the metaxological (the between) that might prove useful for reading Daniel’s book.

  4. roma247 says:

    This book sounds brilliant. For sure we should have it sent to all the Bishops with a note attached saying “this is why you must never suspend public Masses ever again!”

  5. acardnal says:

    Book, yes. Patum piperium, no. Carry on.

  6. AAJD says:

    The only other time I have come across Gentleman’s Savory Relish is with the Two Fat Ladies, as at the link. If you didn’t watch them in the 1990s, you missed a real treat. Jennifer Patterson (rolling pastry here with the relish) was a staunch Catholic devoted to the TLM at the Brompton Oratory, where her funeral was held in August 1999 and to whom she left a great bit of money to support their superb choir. She and Clarissa Dickson Wright (also Catholic) were hilarious in this short-lived series.

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