Last Saturday, I was graciously welcomed into Sister Gretchen Faerber’s kitchen to learn her recipes from her popular Easter bake sale she holds annually to raise money for the ministries of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania.
She shared the recipe for one of her most desired desserts, Polish coffee cake, and her blackberry and apple pie with an award winning crust. I spent Saturday morning and early afternoon at a table across from her learning each recipe step by step.
When I interviewed her last month for a story about the Easter bake sale, I found she is a master baker. She has won ribbons in pie and bread making contests at her hometown 4-H club in Brown County, Minnesota. More importantly, I found she puts love into everything she bakes.
I like to hear people’s stories when they are cooking. Many people seem to have a story or history wrapped up in the dishes passed onto them.
For Sister Gretchen, it is a life that she has devoted to God and her life in Minnesota, where she was born and raised. Sister Gretchen was one of 10 brothers and sisters, happily living in extreme poverty.
Sister Gretchen’s eyes lighted up when she spoke about the days living on a farm, cooking over a wood-burning fire, and playing with her brothers and sisters out on the farm. She said that some of her brothers and sisters didn’t realize how poor the family was until they started working. And guess what, they were still happy.
While we were waiting for the dough to rise, I learned how she became a nun. One day, while she was in high school, she was contemplating becoming a teacher, and then the idea just came to her. And that was the day she decided to devote her life to God and others.
I have to say that I am a bit jealous of her effortless manners in making a pie.
The rolling pin seemed like an extension of her graceful hands, gliding over the dough, magically commanding it to spread out into a perfect circle. She was a great teacher, patient, and kind, and most of all, shared in my joy when we saw the results of our day’s work: four loaves of coffee cake and two pies with the flakiest crust I ever tasted.
We bonded through baking. And also I found it calmed my mind.
Concentrating on perfecting a dish is a great way to relax. I’m glad I was welcomed into her warm kitchen and that she openly shared her recipes with me.