June 24 is one of the oldest of the Church’s feasts, because it is the birthday celebration of St. John the Baptist and is sometimes called “summer Christmas”. On the eve of the feast, great bonfires were once lit as a symbol of “the burning and brilliant’’ light, St. John, who pointed out Christ in this world of darkness. The solstice fires had been pagan, but now they were blessed by the Church in John’s honor.
There are blessings for the bonfire in the Roman liturgy. Magical and superstitious elements of food and drink were forgotten, and we were encouraged to have great picnic feasts out-of-doors around the blazing logs. The outdoor grill, so popular in our own back-yards, was once less selfish and more communal. We feasted as neighbors and as exclusive individuals. (…)
Last year in our home we celebrated St. John’s Day in games and plays and dances in front of the bonfire. It was fun to tell stories of ghosts and witches—all of whom would keep respectful distances from St. John’s light. My daughters, Mary and Ann, gathered St. John’s herbs from field and garden, and I told how they had been used as medicines, charms or food. Most of the yellow flowers once belonging to the cult of Balder, the sun god, are now St. John’s flowers. It was amazing to discover how many flowers were dedicated to this beloved saint.
When the flames had died down to glowing embers, we brought out the long-handled griddle and made sweet pancakes. You seldom think of pancakes at a grill, but they are excellent. The batter is easy to carry to a picnic in a Mason jar. The recipe we used was one from Finland where pancakes are the proper traditional supper on St. John’s Eve.
Ingredients (Serves 2 to 3)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tbsp melted butter
Preheat a griddle and lightly butter it. Beat the eggs with sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk, and slowly whisk in the flour. Stir in the melted butter. Using a small cup, pour mixture onto hot griddle, and cook until golden brown. Flip over, and cook until golden brown. Remove, and repeat with remaining batter. Serve hot and with ripe, fresh raspberries.
This excerpt and recipe are found in Cooking for Christ: Your Kitchen Prayerbook written by Florence Berger. The cookbook is faithful to the liturgical year and celebrates food, family and faith. You can purchase a copy of the cookbook here.