Friday, November 29, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #1 (2013 edition)

Today is the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday for all you retail folks out there, I've been there, I understand) - the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.  It is also the day that Christmas music is acceptable to be listened to in large quantities.  The Brave Astronaut clan is returning from Thanksgiving celebrations with Mrs. BA's family and there will be Christmas music in the car on the way home.

Here, from BuzzFeed, is a ranking of the 30 Best Christmas recordings in the 20th Century.  Comment away.

30.  The Royal Guardsmen, "Snoopy's Christmas" (Christmas Bells) - one of my favorites (and a particular favorite of my brother).
29.  Elton John, "Step into Christmas" - the Holiday Party for the professional organization at work is having a "British Invasion" themed party.  Here's one option.
28. Alvin and the Chipmunks, "The Christmas Song (Don't Be Late)" - LBA and SoBA's exposure to the Chipmunks is confined to the newer version of the Chipmunks.
27.  Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad" - hey, it's catchy.  In a former life, I used to be able to give someone the perpetual ear worm by mentioning this song to her.  For several years, I used to give her the "Feliz Navidad" Hallmark ornament that would come out every year.
26.  Carnie and Wendy Wilson, "Hey Santa" - bringing sexy to the Yuletide season.
25.  Gene Autry, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Still one of the best Christmas specials out there. 
24.  Andy Williams, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - the crooners got a lot of play in the Brave Astronaut home growing up and Mr. Williams was very well represented.  Him, along with the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Sinatra - are very high on my list of Christmas standard singers.  The song of course enjoyed a rebirth in the 1990s when Staples opted to use it for Back to School shopping.
23.  John Denver and the Muppets, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - also found on the Brave Astronaut iPod, I am particularly fond of Beaker's lines and the heartily delivered "BA DA BUM BUM" by Miss Piggy and finally, the entire group on the twelfth day.
22. Charles Brown, “Merry Christmas, Baby/Please Come Home For Christmas” - not really on my radar (though I've heard it before, primarily as it has been covered by many artists since Brown's original recording.
21.  WHAM!, "Last Christmas" - talk about your earworms.
20.  George S. Irving and Dick Shawn, “Snow Miser and Heat Miser” - from the best, IMHO, Christmas Special out there.
19.  Perry Como, "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" - this one is hard, for as most of you know, Christmas was my mother's favorite holiday, so "Home for the Holidays" isn't the same anymore.
18.  The Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick" - sometimes it's hard to listen to a group so closely associated with summer sing about Christmas.
17.  Frank Sinatra, "Jingle Bells" - although I like some of his others (particularly his version of Adeste Fideles), this one's fine.
16.  ‘N Sync, “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” - As the songs started to come out when I was alive, I began to lose interest in those seeking to cash in on the holiday music gravy train.
15.  Harry Belafonte, "Mary's Boy Child" - A little Calypso Christmas music, anyone?
14.  Dean Martin, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - I mean, really, who wouldn't want to stay inside with Dino?
13.  Thurl Ravenscroft, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” - how many sizes will your heart grow this Christmas?
12.  Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas" - The King gets in on the Christmas music band wagon.
11.  Vince Guaraldi Trio, “O Tannenbaum” - Linus's reading of the Christmas story from Bible still moves me.
10.  Bobby Helms, "Jingle Bell Rock" - the original version of the song that has been covered many, many, many times.
9.  John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” - An always timely piece of Christmas music.
8.  Stevie Wonder, “Someday At Christmas” - another different tack on Christmas music.
7.  Jackson 5, “Frosty The Snowman” - I prefer the Jackson boys singing about Mommy kissing Santa Claus.
6.  Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” - Clarence, you keep practicing, maybe Santa will bring you a new saxophone.
5.  The Drifters, “White Christmas” - the list makers feel this is a better version that Bing's.
4.  Brenda Lee, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” - not one of my favorites, but here it is on the list, anyway.
3.  Bing Crosby & David Bowie, “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth” - yes, it's totally cheesy and a little staged, but it's pretty good singin'.
2.  Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song” - who doesn't love roasting chestnuts?
1.  Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” - OK, OK, don't shoot the messenger.  I would have expected Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" but perhaps they didn't realize that was in the 20th Century.  I mean, isn't that the biggest selling song of all time?

Well at least this song didn't make the list.  What are your favorites?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I am a latecomer to cranberries - and I prefer the real stuff to the "canned log."  Here's a dessert that could easily be put out after the Thanksgiving bounty and made to disappear rather easily.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.
From Simply Recipes

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries 

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • Scant pinch ground cloves 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp (plus more for buttering the pan) 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt) 
  • 1/4 cup of milk 

  • A 9-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch high sides 

  1. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter cake pan. 
  2. In a small saucepan, place the 1/4 cup of butter and the 3/4 cups of packed brown sugar. On medium high heat, stir the sugar as the butter melts. Do not stir after the butter has melted.
  3. Pour the brown sugar butter mixture into the prepared cake pan. Spread the cranberries on top of the sugar butter mixture.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl vigorously whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. 
  5. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light. Add the sugar and beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the orange zest. 
  6. Mix a third of the dry ingredients into the mixture. Beat in half of the sour cream. Mix in another third of the dry ingredients. Mix in the remaining sour cream. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the milk.
  7. Pour batter over the cranberries in the cake pan, and smooth the surface. Place in the preheated oven and lower the heat from 350°F to 325°F. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 55 minutes to an hour. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the inside rim of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then turn the cake out onto a platter.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflection on a Dark Day

This morning LBA asked me about the significance of the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  My first answer was that the killing of an American President had not happened since William McKinley in 1901 (obviously Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt had died in office but not at the hands of a killer).  LBA knows about Tecumseh's Curse and he asked about that, too.  My follow up response was that JFK was so young and full of "vigah" - plus he was the first Catholic President as well.  The assassination also played out on national television, bringing a nation (and the world) to a standstill for the weekend.

Most of the reports that you hear often start with, "People who were alive in 1963 can always remember exactly where they were when they heard the news."  For an entire generation of Americans, the day's events are seared in their collective memories.

My mother told me her story many times.  She was bowling in a women's league, while my brother was home sick.  He called the bowling alley to tell my mother what had happened.  She immediately asked for the news to be announced over the bowling alley's PA system.  Everyone in the alley stopped bowling and went home to learn more.  The rest of the weekend was spent watching the news on television.  Of course, in 1963, there were no cable news channels, and only a few TV channels at that.  She always told me of watching Walter Cronkite deliver the news in his shirtsleeves - then as the afternoon turned to evening, he suddenly realized he was not wearing a suit jacket.  Later, when Cronkite returned to the air, he had put on his suit jacket.

There are any number of stories about this seminal event in American History.  Of course, there are the conspiracy theories as well, and there have been a number of "alternate histories" of what could have happened had JFK lived. Where I work, there are countless records about the JFK assassination and I have worked with researchers here and in a previous archives job who were looking into the story of the day's events.

As a "history geek," I can tell you with ease where I was when other significant events took place in history though I was not alive when JFK was killed.  The death of JFK was most certainly a defining moment in history and it brought a generation together not seen again, in my opinion, until the September 11 attacks nearly forty years later.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago Today

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln 
November 19, 1863

Monday, November 18, 2013

What's Thanksgiving Without Stuffing?

As for sides on Thanksgiving - I like my carbs.  I prefer my potatoes, whipped (as opposed to mashed), regular over sweet.  Vegetables are welcome additions, though I am in the minority on that (because I'm going to want brussel sprouts or roasted root vegetables).  Of course, my mother would always have pearled onions in cream sauce on the table - even though she didn't like them - but they had to be there.  I've grown to like them and try to make sure they're on the table.

For years, the stuffing that was on the table came out of the bird - I'm sure at a questionable temperature and doneness.  Over the past years that I have been making my own Thanksgiving feasts, the stuffing has been cooked outside the bird, in a casserole dish.

Here's a recipe for a twist on the old, crouton-based stuffing recipe.  It might be worth a try.  From the Bitten Word, via BuzzFeed.

Tortilla Chip Chorizo Stuffing 
Food Network Magazine (November 2012)

Prep: 25 min | Total Time: 1 hr 25 min
Serves 8-10

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish 
  • 12 ounces dried chorizo, chopped 
  • 4 bunches scallions, chopped 
  • 4 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles, drained 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin 
  • 3 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 13-ounce bag corn tortilla chips, coarsely crushed 
  • 8 cups stale white bread cubes 
  • 2 cups cubed queso fresco cheese 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the chorizo, scallions, chiles and cumin and cook, stirring, until the chorizo is slightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the tortilla chips, bread and cheese and season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the chorizo-broth mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish; dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until golden, about 30 more minutes.

Chef's Note: If you're using fresh bread, dry the cubes in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

101 Objects That Made America

Last week was the Fall 2013 MARAC Meeting in Philadelphia.  Many of my colleagues (including Mrs. BA) work at the Smithsonian, which has just come out with a list of items in their holdings that tell the American Story.

See what you think.  Items 2-10 are grouped under "Wild America," items 11-20 are listed as "Discovery," 21-34 in "Voice," 35-48 under "Power," next is "Invention" for items 49-60, followed by "Community" for items 61-70, then items 71-79 are under "Happiness," then "America in the World" for items 80-91, and finally "Freedom" for items 91-101.
  1. The Star-Spangled Banner
  2. The American Buffalo
  3. The Duck Decoy 
  4. The Bald Eagle
  5. Coast Redwood
  6. Stegosaurus
  7. Audubon Plate
  8. Passenger Pigeon
  9. Life Preserver (from a Westward Exploration journey)
  10. Bierstadt Painting
  11. Neil Armstrong's Space Suit (didn't he just die?)
  12. Lewis and Clark's Compass 
  13. Gold Nugget 
  14. Polio Vaccine 
  15. Dark Matter Spectrograph 
  16. Scopes Trial Photograph 
  17. Benjamin Franklin's Experiments 
  18. Burgess Shale 
  19. George Catlin Paintings
  20. [James] Smithson's Will 
  21. Walt Whitman Photograph
  22. Bell's Telephone
  23. Remington Typewriter
  24. Marian Anderson's Fur Coat
  25. FDR's Microphone 
  26. Nat Turner's Bible
  27. Langston Hughes' 'The Colored Soldier'
  28. Middle Mississippian Mask 
  29. Chavez's Jacket
  30. Andy Warhol's Michael Jackson 
  31. Louis Armstrong's Trumpet
  32. Nam June Paik's Electronic Superhighway 
  33. Justice O'Connor's Robe 
  34. Telstar
  35. Lincoln's Top Hat
  36. Appomattox Table and Chairs 
  37. Gordon Photograph (a runaway slave, whose picture showed the multiple scars of many lashes)
  38. George Washington: The Lansdowne Portrait 
  39. Susan B. Anthony's Gavel 
  40. Red Horse's Drawings of Little Bighorn 
  41. Greensboro Lunch Counter 
  42. Predator Drone 
  43. Bell UH-1H Iroquois Helicopter
  44. Enola Gay 
  45. Wright Flyer
  46. Wonder Woman Comic 
  47. Colt Revolver 
  48. White House Timber
  49. Clovis Points 
  50. Singer Sewing Machine 
  51. Cotton Gin 
  52. Levi's Jeans 
  53. Eames Chair 
  54. Eniac computer 
  55. Edison Light Bulb 
  56. Kodak Camera 
  57. Morse Telegraph 
  58. John Bull Locomotive 
  59. Model T
  60. Space Shuttle Discovery
  61. Ration Ticket 
  62. Pueblo Jars 
  63. "This Land Is Your Land
  64. Suitcase From Japanese Internment 
  65. AIDS Quilt 
  66. Emergency Money
  67. John Deere Plow 
  68. Stagecoach 
  69. Negro League Baseball 
  70. Psychedelic Signboard 
  71. Barbie
  72. Chuck Berry's Guitar 
  73. Irving Berlin's Piano
  74. R2-D2 
  75. Ruby Slippers 
  76. Teddy Bear 
  77. Ali's Gloves and Robe 
  78. Jordan's Jersey 
  79. Richard Petty's Stock Car 
  80. Spirit of St. Louis
  81. Novus Orbis Map
  82. "M*A*S*H" Sign
  83. Fallout Shelter
  84. World Trade Center Sign
  85. Gas Mask (from World War I)
  86. Pocahontas Engravings 
  87. Giant Panda
  88. U.S. Olympic Hockey Jersey 
  89. Vintage California Wines 
  90. USS Maine Bugle (blown up in Havana harbor, sparking the Spanish-American War)
  91. USS Oklahoma Stamp (sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor)
  92. Stained Glass Shards (from the church in Birmingham Alabama)
  93. Geronimo
  94. John Brown Daguerreotype 
  95. LBJ's Pen
  96. Thomas Jefferson's Desk 
  97. Piece of Plymouth Rock
  98. Harriet Tubman's Hymn book 
  99. "Clipper Flying Cloud
  100. Stamp Act Proof
  101. The Pill

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pigs In Sleeping Bags

Normally there's so much eating and cooking going on on Thanksgiving that appetizers don't make an appearance.  But I might make an exception for these.

Pigs In Sleeping Bags
from Epicurious
yield Makes 36 (9 to 12 servings)
A handmade sausage mix takes the place of cocktail franks in this new party classic. A couple of these will keep those Manhattans you're swilling in check.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk 
  • 3/4 cup drained sauerkraut 
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus more for serving 
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, lightly crushed 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 8 ounces ground pork 
  • 1 14-ounce package Dufour Pastry Kitchens frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting) 
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend 

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed to prevent burning, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

Combine panko and milk in a small bowl; let stand until milk is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Squeeze any excess liquid from sauerkraut; coarsely chop and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add pork; using a fork or your hands, gently mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14x10" rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 14x3 1/3" strips. Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet. Using one-third of sausage filling and leaving a 1" border at each end, pat sausage to form a thin log of filling down the center of 1 pastry strip. Fold pastry over sausage mixture to enclose, then press pastry together to seal. Fold seam under to ensure that sausage is tightly wrapped. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture.

Cut small diagonal slits at 1" intervals along top of pastries (to help release steam). Brush top and sides of pastry with beaten egg; chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Pastries can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and keep frozen.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake pastries (if frozen, no need to thaw) until puffed and light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F; continue baking until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden and completely puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut sausage rolls crosswise into 1" pieces. Serve with a bowl of Dijon mustard for dipping.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Off to the City of Brotherly Love

Tomorrow the Brave Astronaut will depart the launchpad for Philadelphia and the Fall Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.  I'm taking the train (something I like to do - but don't nearly do often enough).  I did however score an Amtrak voucher because I don't need the return leg of my journey - so a trip could be in the cards later.

The reason I won't be taking the train home is that Mrs. Brave Astronaut, also known as the First Lady of MARAC, will be joining me for the end of the conference.  Some of you, my dear readers may recall that I was elected as Chair of MARAC in the Spring - this is my first meeting that I will preside over as Chair. 

I am sure that the attendance shattering record of archivists coming to the meeting have nothing to do with that fact. :) However, to commemorate and celebrate Mrs. Brave Astronaut's appearance - I hope that several of my archivist friends will join us for dinner on Friday night and then perhaps a brief lunch on Saturday after the conclusion of the meeting.  At some point we will need to go and pick up LBA and SoBA who will be with my MIL.

If any of my Philly friends have some thoughts on where we might dine on Friday night - I welcome the suggestions.  I promise to keep it to a manageable number and I might even make a reservation.

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's November - Thanksgiving Recipe Month

It looks like the Brave Astronaut Clan will be spending Turkey Day with Mrs. BA's family this year.  We won't be on the hook for much this year - except to show up and eat - which we can do.

All this month on Recipe Monday, I will be posting some yummy Thanksgiving recipes that I have come across recently.  Hopefully they'll show up on the table.

First up, who wouldn't love a bacon themed cocktail? From the LA Times via BuzzFeed.

Candied Bacon Martini
Total time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Note: The candied bacon recipe is adapted from "The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations From Two Great American Cooks" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

Candied bacon 
  • 8 slices smoked bacon 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar 
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, shiny side up. Dredge the bacon on both sides in the brown sugar and arrange the slices so they do not touch on the sheet. Bake until the bacon is richly caramelized, 15 to 25 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the bacon strips to a cooling rack and allow the excess fat to drain. Serve warm as candy or cool until hardened for the martinis.

Candied bacon martinis 
  • 6 ounces premium vodka 
  • 4 ounces Applejack brandy 
  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur 
  • 2 ounces maple syrup, preferably grade "B" 
  • 4 thin slices tart apple, such as Granny Smith 
  • 2 slices candied bacon, halved crosswise
Chill 4 martini glasses. In a large cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, brandy, amaretto and maple syrup with ice. Shake until combined and chilled. Strain the cocktail into the 4 chilled glasses and garnish each with an apple slice and half a slice of candied bacon. Serve immediately.

Each of 4 servings: 284 calories; 1 gram protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 1 gram fat; 0 saturated fat; 3 mg. cholesterol; 78 mg. sodium.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All About Saints

Today is All Saint's Day in the Catholic Church Calendar.  As has been mentioned here before, the patron saint of my profession is St. Lawrence, whose feast day is celebrated on August 10.

Here's a list of some more obscure saints that you may not have realized were looking out for you.

St. Genesius - the patron saint of actors - allegedly had an epiphany while performing in a play satirizing Christian sacrament and converted to Christianity on the spot, right in the middle of the play. Emperor Diocletian, for whom the play was being performed, was enraged and, when Genesius refused to change his mind, had the performer tortured and beheaded. This reputedly untrue story, originated three centuries after Genesius’ death. It is believed that Genesius was actually a legal clerk who became so upset about the edict of persecution for Christians that he left his position and went in search of baptism. He was beheaded, around 303 CE, but there’s no evidence to suggest the conversion-during-a-play story is accurate.
St. Vitus has a slightly more legitimate reason to be patron saint of performers, but it’s still a bit fuzzy. Vitus is known as one of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers,” a group of saints venerated together because their intercession is considered especially effective.

Advertising, Television, & Broadcasting 
Bernardine of Siena was a Franciscan priest and is considered the patron saint of advertisers, an honor that stems from his passionate and highly persuasive preaching. In 1444, he realized his death was imminent, and preached for 50 consecutive days until his death. Take that, Don Draper.

Gabriel the Archangel looks after radio broadcasters (and “communication workers” in general).  Gabriel is the angel who appeared to Mary to announce her pregnancy.

St. Clare of Assisi helps those in television.  Near the end of her life, Clare became too sick to attend daily mass. On Christmas Eve, she saw visions of the chapel mass on the wall of her cell, complete with organ music and singing. Considering this miracle to be the first live broadcast, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare the patron saint of television in 1958.

Beer, Brewers, & Alcoholics
Beer has just one patron saint, an Austrian bishop who was known for extolling the benefits of drinking beer. St. Arnold was born into a prominent Austrian family in 580 CE. In that time, water wasn’t actually very safe to drink, as it was often filled with contaminants that could make people sick. Beer’s preparation, however, kills off any harmful bacteria, making it positively healthy in comparison. Arnold spoke often on the topic of beer, especially its health benefits. He’s credited with the statement, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” About a year after Arnold’s death and burial at his monastery in Remiremont, France, his body was relocated to the local church in Metz, France, where he had frequently preached. According to legend, the procession that transported his body stopped at a tavern for refreshment on the way, but there was only one mug of beer left, so they all split it… and the mug never ran dry, quenching the crowd’s thirst. Today, there’s a brewery in Houston named for the patron saint of beer: Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

Brewers have a whole assortment of patron saints to call their own: Augustine of Hippo, Luke, Nicholas of Myra, Amand, and Wenceslaus. Yet the explanations for these patrons are lacking. The only one given an explanation is St. Augustine of Hippo, and it’s shaky at best. According to “St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.” His early bad boy lifestyle may have been a classic case of rebellion—his mother was the super holy St. Monica, who managed to convert her husband and his mother to Christianity. She prayed for Augustine through 17 years of his “loose living” and was consoled by a priest who told her, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” Eventually, her prayers and preaching won out, and Augustine cast aside “all impurity” and began living “in imitation of Jesus.”

Speaking of St. Monica, she’s known as the patron saint of alcoholics (and those affected by them). In addition to her challenges with her son Augustine, her husband was an abusive alcoholic pagan whom she had married through arrangement at a young age. Despite their differences and his bad temper, Monica was able to not only “nag him to sobriety,” as one site put it, but to convert him to her faith. She’s also the patron saint of wives and victims of abuse, as you may have been able to guess.

Illegitimate Kids, the Divorced, & Single Moms
There isn’t much information available as to why St. John Francis Regis is regarded as the patron saint of illegitimate children, but it’s most likely related to his work with “wayward women and girls.” John was ordained in 1630 and embarked on a life of assisting others, including helping wayward women and girls “withdr[a]w from vice,” establishing hostels for prostitutes, and providing girls with incomes by setting them up as lacemakers (which is why he’s also the patron saint of lacemakers).

Those who have been divorced, especially women, can look to Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great, as their patron saint. St. Helena (also known as St. Helen) is most often associated with the True Cross, since she is credited with finding the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. However, her personal life suits her to patronage of divorcĂ©es. It’s unknown exactly when and how she met Emperor Constantius, but it is said that when they met he saw her as “his soulmate sent by God.” Sources are also unsure as to the exact nature of their relationship: some say it was a legal marriage, others a common-law marriage; some say she was his wife, others his concubine. Whatever the specifics, the two were in a relationship that produced an heir, Constantine, around the year 272 CE. They remained together for at least 15 years, but in 289 CE Constantius, who was Roman Emperor Caesar, divorced Helena to enter into a politically advantageous marriage with a younger woman, Theodora, who was the stepdaugher of Maximian, Roman Emperor Augustus at the time.

As for single moms, they have St. Margaret of Cortona, who became the mistress of a nobleman when she was a teenager. Margaret remained with the nobleman for ten years and even bore him a son, despite his refusal to marry her as she desired. She left only after his murder (don’t worry, she wasn’t the one who killed him) and returned home to her father’s house with her son, but her stepmother refused to let her stay. She took refuge with the Church of Saint Francis in Cortona, eventually joining the Third Order of St. Francis (although her past led to resistance by some members of the order).

The Ugly & Those Suffering Discrimination
Drogo of Sebourg, who was born into Flemish nobility, held himself responsible for his mother’s death in childbirth and practiced extreme penance, ridding himself of all possessions at age 18 to become a penitential pilgrim. During one pilgrimage, he suffered an “unsightly bodily affliction.” The term “unsightly” is actually a bit too mild to properly convey Drogo’s condition: he became so deformed that townspeople were scared of his appearance, and they even built a cell (attached to a church, since he was so religious) for him to stay in, to “protect the local citizens of the village from his appearance.” Yeah, he was that ugly. For the remaining 40 years of his life, the only human contact he had was via a small window in the door of his cell, through which he received his sustenance—barley, water, and the Eucharist. So if you feel that you’re ugly or deformed, send up a prayer through St. Drogo… or just remind yourself he had it a lot worse. There’s also St. Germaine, who supposedly was abandoned by her parents as a young child due to her unattractiveness. She spent her life isolated from society; as a shepherdess, she slept in fields and under stairways and had limited human interaction.

Desperate Situations and Impossible Cases
People who feel they’re facing desperate situations can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they have several patron saints to whom they can turn: Jude, Gregory the Wonderworker, and Eustace. Really, the majority of the officially recognized saints suffered through “desperate situations,” so almost any of them are worth a shot. St. Jude is probably the most well-known for desperate situations (and lost causes). His reputation as patron of the desperate is due to his New Testament letter, which “stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them,” according to

If your situation is truly impossible, though, you have only one person to turn to: Rita of Cascia. From childhood, Rita (also known as Margarita) yearned to be a nun, but her parents forced her into marriage at age 12 to “a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region.” She endured his “insults, abuse, and infidelities” and persevered in converting “her cruel husband from his wicked ways, making their home a peaceful sanctuary of holy bliss.” They went on to have two children together. Despite her husband’s change of heart, his past led to his downfall; he was stabbed to death, betrayed by his allies. As her sons grew older, they plotted revenge for their father’s murder and wouldn’t listen to reason from Rita. So Rita turned to prayer instead, and her sons died non-violent deaths before they were able to enact any revenge.