For an artist, cooking is another way to be creative (March 27, 2011)

Another great recipe originally published in 2004

We continue this season’s Lenten Recipe file with a Manhattan Clam Chowder that delights the palates of the 22 Sisters of Mercy who break bread with each other daily in the Mansion House at Georgian Court University.

The chowder, abundant with clams and vegetables, is the creation of one of the 22, Mercy Sister Mary Phyllis Breimayer, who rates it high on the list of dishes she likes to cook when she has free time.

“We do have a very fine cook named Harriet Douglas and during Lent, she makes the best macaroni and cheese. I like to work in the kitchen alongside her but I don’t have that much of an opportunity,” said Sister Breimayer.

Whenever the opportunity does arise, the multi-talented professor, who teaches art history, American art, color and design, drafting techniques and oil painting, seizes it.

“I think artists like to cook,” she said. “It’s another way to be creative.”

Sister Breimayer began cooking as a missionary in Costa Rica in the 1960s. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me. I was there from 1965 to 1970 as a teacher in government schools and at the University of Costa Rica and also taught art at a private school.

“We had to do our own cooking. There were four of us, two nurses and two teachers. The other teacher shared the cooking duty with me. You could not just run down to the corner store and buy food,” she said. “First I learned how to bake bread and then learned how to cook every part of the meal.

“We liked our traditional meals on holidays and had whatever was typical of the area the rest of the time,” she said. “I really enjoyed it very much.”

When Sister Breimayer takes to the kitchen these days, she’s most apt to spend the time baking. “I like to bake cookies, cakes and pies, especially apple and cherry pies.”

During Lent, the focus at table is much the same as it is all year long, she said.

“Sharing food is a very important part of our community life. It’s a good time for sharing and what we like very much is that we have a community Mass every day followed by a community dinner. Because of our busy lives, it’s the one time of day when we all aim to be together. The meal,” she said, “is a continuation of our celebration at Mass.”

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (l lb. 12 oz.)
  • 4 cans minced clams (6.5 oz. each)
  • 2 bottles clam juice (8 oz. each)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pint vegetable juice
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 3½ cups potatoes pared and diced

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until tender. Then add celery, carrots and parsley and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Add the tomatoes to the vegetables in the pot. Drain the clams and set aside. Pour the clam juice, tomato liquid and vegetable juice into the pot. Add salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add potatoes, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add minced clams to chowder. Simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve hot. Makes 8-10 servings.

2 thoughts on “For an artist, cooking is another way to be creative (March 27, 2011)

  1. Thanks for this colorful and memorable piece, made all the more special in light of Sister Phyllis’ recent passing. It’s a great tribute to her creative spirit!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment Gail. I appreciated Sister Phyllis so much as a woman of faith, an artist and teacher and yes, a cook. She will be missed and her memory will be cherished.

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