The Bad Catholic’s Guide To Wine, Whiskey, And Song, by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
How does someone who is a moderationist but by no means a knowledeable person when it comes to drinking read and appreciate a book like this? As it happens, one of the authors of this book made a comment online about some bad Catholic music and I commented that it could be used as interrogation, to which the author replied that it was a suggestion he made made in an article as well as in a book and what do you know, that is definitely the case. On its face, this book is a hilarious look at some amazing recipes as well as some humorous examples of how it is that Catholic monasteries kept alive basic knowledge during the Dark Ages in the face of massive illiteracy in the general European population, including the knowledge of how to make a wide variety of spirits. Besides serving as broadminded celebration of Catholic culture, though, this book has some darker points about the untrustworthiness of civil authorities and especially secular ones who profit off of the knowledge that has been provided by churchmen before turning on them and seeking to expropriate their wealth.
This book is organized from A to Z and includes a look in some areas of Christian culture that would likely be unfamiliar to many, including the true European roots of popular Californian wines and the way that Ethiopian cuisine can wreck a date. Yet those who see this book as only being good for laughs would miss the melancholy notes that are just underneath the surface of this book, which talks about the songs of Catholicism, many of which have a tragic meaning, such as the rousing “Faith Of Our Fathers” or the songs sung by the Vendeean counter-revolutionaries who gave their life to help France maintain some aspect of its Catholic honor in the face of Revolutionary terror. Indeed, the author implicitly points out here that Catholic conservatives or traditionalists tend to be canaries in a coal mine whose struggles serve as a reminder that a state has moved into a deeply oppressive state. And in almost 400 pages of reading, this book mixes plenty of humor with some rather dark observations of Catholic history, an area I must admit I am not as familiar about as I am with many other aspects of history.
Ultimately, this is a book that is for several groups of readers. For one, it is an excellent read for those who want to explore the richness and diversity of Catholic culinary culture while appreciating the complex history that the Roman Catholic church has had around the world, especially in its periodic persecution by hostile secular forces. For another, the book offers the means of encouraging the deeper study of Catholic culture for Catholics and those who are at least not hostile to the popular level of Catholicism of monasteries and their role as repositories of knowledge. For those who are willing to laugh as well as enjoy the legacy of wine, whiskey, and song, this book is certainly of a lot more use as critical but loving look at Catholic culture and how it has been viewed by society than a Chinese-made tschotske at some sort of nominally Catholic university bookstore, although such places might consider this book and others in the series not elevated enough for such a prestigious place of honor. Those who can appreciate this work would do well to enjoy the fine recipes by Matychowiak while pondering upon the way that tyrannical governments demonstrate their abusiveness by the way that they attack the Church, and wonder how long until our own militant secularists attack it here.