A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Pastor of Saint Bernadette Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York, Father Paul D. Seil has merged his Catholic faith with his culinary passion. The result: he is the star of the show, "Our Daily Bread" on Catholic TV.
A native of Buffalo, and the oldest of four children. Father Seil grew up in an intensely Irish Catholic household where the faith was very publicly played. “My grandmother was a great influence,” he said. “My dad was very devout. He went through many difficulties, yet he maintained his faith. ... My Catholic faith is born into me.”
It seems that his passion for cooking was also family-born. Although his mother was just a typical home cook serving up Buffalo-style meals, his dad had a culinary zeal. “My dad, a firefighter, cooked firehouse food, like chili,” he said. “So little by little I picked this and that up about cooking. But I loved to understand the techniques for cooking and thought about it that way.” Father Seil added that he is really self-taught and watched cooking shows. In the Buffalo diocesan seminary Christ the King in Western New York, he said, he could access its open kitchen and get ingredients any time. “I could make semifreddo [a frozen sweet] and chocolate chip cookies,” he said.
But his entering into the priesthood also had some family influences. “Why a priest? That is still a difficult question to answer,” he said. “I had an uncle who died in France in World War II, whose name was Paul Francis Seil, and he was studying to become a priest.” Father Seil grew up hearing his uncle’s story, and though the years, while in Catholic schools and then in college, the idea of joining the priesthood came and went. After college and working as a civil servant, Father Seil kept thinking, “I can do this. And if I cannot, at least I can try.” At the age of 28, he entered seminary and was ordained at the age of 33.
Besides cooking for himself at the rectory, early in his priesthood, Father Seil began to cook for charity and parish events, such as for Oktoberfest and Mardi Gras celebrations. “I try to take this cooking to another level of the Scriptures,” he said. “In the Old Testament, the Israelites complained about their food that was minus garlic, leeks and melons. In the New Testament, the changing of water into wine, and the wedding banquet brings the image of the heavenly kingdom.”
His parish cooking events inspired the idea for a television cooking show with a priest. At the time, some in his community opposed the idea, saying this was not an activity a priest should do. But with the eventual enthusiastic permission of a new bishop, the idea came to pass.
“We were offered time for a cooking show,” he said. “Sister Barbara Chirico, RSM, was the host of “Our Daily Bread” for the first two years. Then we co-hosted, and when she was unable to continue, I hosted the program for an additional 18 years. So in the late 1990s I started and a sister helped me,”
It was not really so much about cooking techniques and food, he said, but about having people in the community talk about their apostolates, such as those taking care of the homeless and serving them meals.
Even though “Our Daily Bread” is no longer on the air, Father Seil said many people still recognize him, even those who are not Catholic. “It is a great chance to talk about food,” he said. “Whenever we gather at the table and share food and drink, it is a heavenly banquet.”
Father Seil’s Low-Fat Lemon Caesar Dressing
Serve as a salad dressing, over grilled romaine wedges, as vegetable dip, or as a condiment for chicken.
- 4 ounces no-fat sour cream
- 4 ounces extra virgin olive or canola oil
- 2 ounces white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- Juice and zest from 1 Lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- A few grinds of salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl except the olive oil. Drizzle in the oil while fearlessly whisking. When all ingredients are happily incorporated, chill in the fridge for at least an hour.