Found at Laurita Winery in New Egypt: gifts of language and of earth


Its been a busy summer so far with a lot of focus on special editions of The Monitor that signal the start of the season each year: graduation and religious anniversaries.

Now, I’m savoring the time to blog once again and there’s some catching up to do: a visit to a winery; joining some kids as they practiced the fine art of making pizza dough; preparing a menu for the moment when brother Pete and I finally get to meet our niece Sophia’s fiance Jason.

First the winery.

Brother Pete and I spontaneously joined some friends on a bus trip to Laurita Winery in New Egypt when the last big issue was finished. The short and pleasant journey to the frontier of the Garden State’s farm belt resulted in several pleasant surprises including: a new prayer to hang on my kitchen wall and an expanded sense of the “Jersey Fresh” vintages that are winning prizes and adulation around the nation.

For starters, we were amazed at the approach to the winery, positioned as it is in the middle of some of the best “u-pick” farms in Central Jersey. It was really like entering a different world as the landscape turned perfectly agrarian. A curving road led us up to a promontory where the winery, a rather grand building really, with great terraces for viewing the vineyards and interesting architectural elements, was the starting point of the tour.

While the winery is equipped for catering right now, lunch consisted of light sandwich fare available for purchase and as I settled for vegetables and cheese on an Italian roll my eyes wandered upwards from the counter to the wall above which was stenciled with a prayer by Gunilla Norris.

I’d never heard of Gunilla Norris before that moment but was taken with her sentiments about the sacred space that is the kitchen. I copied it to share it with readers and when I got back home, spent some time exploring Norris on the Internet. Her work is largely of a spiritual nature and are well reviewed by clergy of many faiths. Her books are available on a number of Catholic book sites.

Her sense of kitchen as a place where “we cook – actually and spiritually” and the “heart of the house” really touched a place in my own heart. I hope you enjoy “The Kitchen” by Gunilla Norris

The kitchen is a holy place –

alive with possibility

A place for the elements

Water in the tap,

fire in the stove,

earth in the food,

air – between, around, above & below.

Behind the cupboard doors

are the pots and the pans,

the bowls and the dishes,

the measuring cups

and the measuring spoons

holy things

that lie ready for use,

much like our dreams

that lie waiting behind our eyelids

The kitchen is alchemical

a place where we cook – actually

and spiritually. We come to it for nourishment and ease

We come to it as center –

the Heart of the house,

the heart of dwelling.

In the ktichen we are one,

linked by hunger –

actual hunger and spiritual hunger

We go to the kitchen to be

noursihed and revealed

It is a holy place.

After dining on the terrace, we went a tour by Jan Mac Dougal who considers herself the ambassador for the vineyard. She’s been filling that role for 12 or 13 years, she said, filling us in on the fact that it’s a fine place to stop by any time of the year. This weekend, for instance, if the temperature cools down, we’ll be attending the annual “Cool Jazz and Blues Fest” which is free and runs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 24.

Mac Dougal noted that the winery, located in the heart of Assumption Parish, one of the oldest parishes in our diocese, expects to have its annual fall harvest blessing of the grapes. She filled us in on an old tradition that the vines go dormant for three days at the New Year and it’s traditional to have Father Joseph J. Farrell return again to bless them as they come back to life.

I’m looking forward to both of these occasions and will fill you in on the dates as soon as I learn them.

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