“When I start to have a drink in my nose, when I have packed it well, I like, just before eating to whet my appetite, to watch an episode of “The Kitchen of the Monasteries” on @KTOTV. The sisters peel things, tell their life. Big trip. As we can see, in this tweet posted in 2020 by a certain @tronchedecake, this show from the Catholic channel KTO, founded in 1999, does not only have altar boys among its aficionados.

But “The Kitchen of the Monasteries”, which one might imagine gastronomically contrite, is in fact fascinating in various ways. First, for believers – including us – it is a dive into the daily spiritual and domestic life of congregations of various orders and obediences.

Then, because the cuisine is tempting. So much so that we would gladly slip into one of the tables in the refectories where, decidedly, what is offered is closer to a generous and rich bistro cuisine – except in liturgical moments which prohibit it – than to subsistence served to so many communities.

Some of these congregations operate in an almost closed circuit, picking from the vegetable garden and the orchard (the apple is often featured) what will be prepared, collecting the eggs or taking the milk when a poultry or dairy farm is associated with it. Otherwise, the kitchens are stocked by local suppliers or receive in-kind donations.

bread soup

Anyway, we do with what we have and we never waste. The recipes are culturally diverse – nuns and monks of foreign origin are sometimes in the kitchen – or have been developed and noted by elders. From potatoes stuffed with cheese, walnuts, egg and cream, by Brother Hervé-Marie, to kig ha farz, the Finistère stew, by Brother François-Xavier, we do not give in to slimming cuisine at the Michael Guerard.

But, as is frequently reminded, the members of the congregations work hard, and often in the open air: they must be perked up even if some, women or men, older and less active, benefit from ad hoc menus. And why not eat lean but consistent, thanks, for example, to the “fish of a thousand colors” of Sister Pascale-François, of African origin?

When Brother Laurent offers a rather dietetic cold zucchini soup, the buxom monk cannot help but accompany it with Camembert delicacies and a… breaded Camembert. Another delight, a “recipe that continues in the monasteries”, but “for Lenten time”, specifies the very sympathetic sister Marie-France: panade, a bread soup for the winter – which is creamed all the same after cooking the stale bread in water.

Sister Marie-France has unwittingly become one of the stars of the series, imagined by François Lespés, whose title is obviously a nod to the legendary “Cuisine des mousquetaires”, by Maïté and Micheline Banzet, on France 3, from 1991 to 1997. She is not the only one to attract the most frank sympathy, but nothing beats her almost mischievous eye and her rosy face of greed when she says of her panade: “Reheated, it’s even better ! »