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Former Swiss Guard releases Catholic Christmas cookbook

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CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 05:44 pm MT (CNA).-

A new cookbook offers recipes, some more than 1,000 years old, that have been served at the Vatican during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

“The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” is written by chef David Geisser, who is a former member of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, along with author Thomas Kelly. The book offers stories of the Vatican’s own Christmas celebrations, and includes 100 Vatican Christmas recipes.

The book pays special attention to the Swiss Guard, the small military force that has guarded popes for five centuries.

“It is only with the cooperation and assistance of the Swiss Guard that we are able to present this compilation of special recipes, stories, and imagery inspired by the Vatican and set in the glory and wonder of the Christmas season,” the book’s forward explains.

“We hope that it brings some comfort and joy to all. With gratitude and appreciation for their service to fifty popes and the Church of Rome for more than 500 years, we dedicate this book to the Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See.”

“The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” offers recipes like Veal Chanterelle, Egg Williams Soufflé, Venison in Fig Sauce and deserts like Cheesecake David, Gingerbread Plum Parfait, and Maple Cream Cake.

The book incorporates details about the history of Christmas, Advent, and the Papal Guard, which began in 1503 after Pope Julius II determined that the Vatican was in dire need of a military force to protect it from European conflicts. It also offers traditional Christmas and Advent prayers.

“The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” includes stories about the tradition of the Swiss Guard Christmas Watch and recalls Christmases observed by popes of centuries past.

Swiss Guard Felix Geisser shares his memories of Christmas 1981 – the Christmas that followed a failed assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II.

“I had the special honor of serving as a Guard of the Throne during Midnight Mass. This is the most exalted position on the holiest night of the Christmas season, in the heart of venerable St. Peter’s, and so close to the pope, only steps away,” Geisser recalled.

“It was the night when I witnessed the resurgence of the Holy Father. He was energized by the profound meaning of this night, and the faithful that surrounded him. It was a great joy for me to participate in this beautiful service.”

This cookbook is the sequel to David Geisser’s “The Vatican Cookbook,” which was endorsed chef Michael Symon and actress Patricia Heaton.

Geisser began his cooking career working in European gourmet restaurants. He gained international recognition at the age of 18 when he wrote a cookbook under the title “Around the World in 80 Plate.”

The author spent two years in the Swiss Guard and wrote his third cookbook, “Buon Appetito.” In his Christmas cookbook’s introduction, Geisser said he was excited to share his experiences in the Vatican’s kitchen, the Guard, and the season of Christmas.

“When my friend, Thomas Kelly, proposed a Christmas sequel to ‘The Vatican Cookbook’ that we collaborated with many others to create four years ago, I thought it was a wonderful idea,” he said.

“The collection of many new and classic recipes, surrounded by the splendor of the Vatican and enhanced by the stories of the Swiss Guard, was worthy of its title. I welcomed the opportunity to take that same concept and infuse it with the Christmas spirit and all the meaning and glory of that special season. It seemed a perfect fit to me.”

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