Setting the table with St. Peter in mind

A visit to the Holy Land is at the top of my “bucket list” and right under it, is being in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome one Feb. 22 for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

This feast, which recalls the primacy of the apostle Peter, is, from what I’ve read, a  most festive celebration at the great basilica. The apse is lit with hundreds of candles arrayed around the bronze monument of the Cathedra (chair) of St. Peter which, according to tradition, contains fragments of the actual chair the Prince of Apostles taught from.

The ancient bronze statute of Peter sought out by pilgrims who have carressed and kissed his feet over the centuries, wearing the toes down to a smooth, nondescript mass, is there too. The monument and the statue were two real highlights of the diocesan pilgrimage to Rome back in 2000 and I’ve been yearning to return to the basilica on this special feast day since then.

On this feast day, the statue of the fisherman is draped in a heavy red robe fastened with a large pin in the shape of a dove. A large jeweled tiara adorns his head.

This feast celebrates the day that Peter took up his mission as bishop and held his first liturgical service at Antioch where he remained for seven years before moving on to Rome where he served 25 years until his martyrdom under Nero.

Since we aren’t in Rome on this marvelous day, we can only strive to do as the Romans do, which, from personal observation would include following up religious observerances with a lovely dinner.

In honor of the Prince of Apostles, I  spent a lot of time searching out the kind of dishes he might have enjoyed during his time in Rome. Though actual recipes and contemporary facsimiles are to be found, but it’s been my experience that ancient culinary flavors can be a challenge to the contemporary palate.

Still, as a history lesson for the children – and, for that matter – adults, a visit  to will shed a lot of light on the types of food Peter would have eaten. Family members might be inspired to try some of the suggestions.

For a recipe – and in keeping with Peter as fisherman – here is an old recipe from a cookbook with a biblical focus that turned up on the Internet. Peter might very well have eaten a dish like this with Jesus and the other apostles or in Rome with the community he preached to there. It’s easy to prepare  and very enjoyable to eat.

  It calls for Halibut but you can substitute any firm fleshed white fish. If you choose halibut, opt for pre-boned fresh or frozen filets. If you choose frozen filets, thaw them thoroughly before cooking them. You can do this by putting them in the refrigerator for eight to ten hours before cooking or defrosting them in a sealed plastic bag immersed in hot water for about a half to three-quarters of an hour.

Broiled Fish with Honey and Oil

Ingredients: 4 6-to-8-ounced hailbut steaks about 1 inch thick; salt and freshly ground pepper to taste; 2 tablespoons honey of your choice; 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Directions: Preheat the broiler. Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste. Rub the fish on both sides with the honey, then rub with the oil. Place the fish on a nonstick baking sheet. Place the oven rack in the upper shelf. Broil the fish for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until just firm.


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