Catholic Convert Sarah White — and a Recipe for Brussels Sprouts and Balsamic ‘Pizza’
“Being Catholic,” says Sarah White, “my husband and I have been drawn to eating liturgically over the last few years. That has shaped our meals and drinks and reason for celebration in a wonderful way in the kitchen.”
California native Sarah White admits to an unusual conversion experience. It happened when in college she attended her first Mass in a church close to campus. Six weeks earlier, she had accidentally spilled a cup of coffee onto her laptop. Horrified, and afraid of telling her parents, she took it to a repair store on campus. The tech, upon first examination, tipped the computer to the side and coffee came out of its port.
“I waited all week” she said, and her boyfriend (now husband) told her, “When I don’t know what to do, I pray.” So she prayed to God that her computer would be okay. “I went to the technician to pick up the computer at the end of the week, who asked if I had put it in the bathtub. He said he had never seen so much water.” The tech said that though he had never seen anything like it, her computer worked better than ever. “I still work on it today,” she said, “and my husband and I thanked God I didn’t have to call my dad and tell him any bad news.”
Now a resident in Phoenix, Sarah grew up in what she calls a “loosely Christian” family. But she became Catholic while in college, going to Mass and visiting the nearby Catholic Newman Center. “I remember I started to cry because of the homily, taken aback at how well the priest was speaking to my heart.” While walking back to her dorm from the Center, she felt so relaxed and at peace. At the following week’s Mass, the priest caught up with her afterward, introduced himself, and invited her to attend weekly events.
“It snowballed from there,” she said. “At one point I told my mom that I had started going to church and she just said, ‘Okay, as long as it isn’t Catholic!’ It was a denomination full of a strictness that didn’t identify with my family's views. I was so grateful for taking RCIA classes in college,” she said, “so when I went home for Christmas break, I could defend my spending so much time studying the faith. … Going to weekly church was not part of our family culture, but I fell in love with it.” (Note: Today Sarah White is a monthly contributor to TheYoungCatholicWoman.com.
Religion was not part of her childhood, but cooking did play a small role. “My parents cooked often, but never spent hours cooking in the kitchen each night,” she said. “We would all eat at our kitchen bar with laughter, conversation and family time. But my husband’s parents look at time spent in the kitchen very differently. They are not only willing to but enjoy spending hours in food prep and consumption.”
Sarah recalled her first meal at her in-laws’ house. It was a dinner with stuffed squid, an entrée that surprised her. She ate that first dinner with them mostly to avoid being rude. But she has since applauded their approach to adventurous cooking and eating. “They eat a wonderful and broad arrangement of food,” she said. “Now it [stuffed squid] is one of my favorite dishes. And my love for and making multiple different dishes are from knowing my husband. That is how we built our relationship together — through shared meals and endless time together cooking, and he has instilled a great love of food in me. Now we have a little girl, and she is always with us in the kitchen.”
While stuffed squid may be a favorite, Sarah’s immediate food love is for anything Italian. “If there are carbs or cheese involved, I am there,” she said. “I love, love, love Italian food but I am also surprised by Indian food. My husband makes a great curry, and on our honeymoon, we went to Greece, so I also have a fond love of Greek food. Being Catholic, my husband and I have been drawn to eating liturgically over the last few years. That has shaped our meals and drinks and reason for celebration in a wonderful way in the kitchen.”
Indeed, food and cooking are such a family focus that Sarah and her husband start prepping dinner at 4 p.m., and end up eating at 7 or 8 p.m. After all, she said, “Food brings people together.”
* * * * * * *
Brussels Sprouts and Balsamic ‘Pizza’
Serves 3-4 people
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 to 2 bags Brussel sprout, trimmed and finely sliced
- 3 to 4 strips pancetta or bacon, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Numerous rounds pita bread
- Goat cheese, room temperature
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil. If using the pancetta or bacon, place strips on a baking sheet and bake until desired crispness.
- Heat a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté the onion until translucent, and add the Brussel sprouts. Continue cooking until the sprout turn bright green and become fragrant. Add more olive oil as needed. Do not overcook the sprouts until they turn brown. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from the heat. Place the pita rounds on a baking sheet. For each pita bread,
spread a spoonful of olive oil over the top. Using a butter knife, spread a layer of goat cheese across the top of the pita. Top with the meat, if using.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove when the edges of some of the sprouts have crisped. Transfer the pita to a cutting board, and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top. Cut in halves or quarters and serve hot.