Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

hildi's amazing illumination...and her soup.

Described as "the feistiest woman since Boadicea" by Face magazine in 1997, Hildegard of Bingen, appeared on our house last night. In a vision fitting the many she herself had, her face, along with her powerful music, was beamed across the river - our house serving as a giant screen.

Next I saw the most lucid air, in which I heard . . . in a marvelous way many kinds of musicians praising the joys of the heavenly citizens . . . And their sound was like the voice of a multitude, making music in harmony.   -Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard was quite the remarkable woman in the 12th century. She influenced many powerful men at the time, like Pope Eugenius III, the Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and even members of the English royal family. 

Literally on top of the place I now call home, the first convent she founded sat perched high above the Rhine and Nahe rivers. She wrote here, grew herbs and created remedies here, philosophized and advised here, and became one of the earliest named composers here.  

She was “a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority,” nurturing, “an evident love of creation...learned in medicine, poetry and music,” said Pope Benedict in 2012.

For this reason I garden here. Through osmosis I hope her wise teachings will leech into me like the ground water seeps into heavy clay.

So, yesterday was the two year anniversary of St. Hildegard of Bingen's elevation to Doctor of the Church, making her only the fourth female to earn this title in the Catholic Church's 2000 year old history. She joined Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux on the list, among the total of 35 doctors. If only Oprah could invite those four to her Super Soul Sundays!

Set to music that Hildegard composed, the town of Bingen honoured her life by holding an illumination event last night. Great guy and I wandered across the river in the pouring rain, to watch and listen and learn more about this incredible woman who we (okay, I) feel somehow close to. 

Hildegard's letters sit in the museum, her herbal-inspired potions adorn store shelves, and her cookbook lives in my kitchen. Since I love making soups as summer turns into fall, below I have included three of my favourite recipes. 

Enjoy! As Thanksgiving rolls around, I am thankful of everything that I have to throw into my soup pot, and all who will eat from it.

Love abounds in all things,
excels from the depths to beyond the stars,
is lovingly disposed to all things…the kiss of peace.
-Hildegard of Bingen’s Caritas abundant

Suppengrün source:

Hildi’s Pumpkin Soup (Kürbissuppe)*

½ soup green bundle (Suppengrün, mirepoix)
  - consisting of 2 carrots, 1 leek, parsley, ¼ celery root
100 g Cinderella or Cheese pumpkin cubed (or other type of winter squash)
1 small onion
1 T butter
1 T whole spelt flour
½ l vegetable broth
2 tomatoes
salt and black pepper to taste

Wash and cube all vegetables. Sauté onions in butter and add the flour. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Blanche the tomatoes, peel and remove the stem. Add all the vegetables to the broth mixture and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes. Purée the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Hildi’s Borschtsch* 

(Isn’t it funny that ‘borscht’ is spelled 'Borschtsch' in German? I have no idea how one pronounces that! Borschtschschsch)

salt, peppercorns
1 garlic clove (garlic ‘toe’ in German)
250 g lean beef
3 potatoes
3 red beets
1 onion
2 carrots
1 head of cabbage
2 T butter
black pepper
1 bundle of parsley
125 g sour cream

Bring 1 litre of water to a boil. Add salt, peppercorns and the chopped garlic. Add cubed beef and boil for 30 minutes. Peel and cube potatoes and beets (Hildi recommends wearing gloves for this). Dice onions and slice carrots. Chop cabbage until you have one cup. Sauté vegetables in butter and add to the beef broth. Let simmer adding salt and pepper to taste. Wash and finely chop the parsley and add to the finished soup. When serving, drop a teaspoon of sour cream in each steaming bowl of soup.

My favourite. The Station Arts Centre, located in Rosthern, Saskatchewan makes the most savory comfort soups, in my opinion, and I make some version of their Bacon and Potato Chowder almost every week throughout the winter months.

Here is their recipe (or ask for their cookbook at

The Station Arts' Bacon and Potato Chowder

Fry and remove fat from 6 slices of bacon, crumble and set aside.
Sauté 1 cup of chopped onion in 2 T of the bacon fat.

In a soup pot, add:
sauteéd onions
3 cups diced potatoes
3 cups cold water
3 chicken bouillon cubes
½ t salt
Cook until tender and reduce heat.

Into a small bowl, stir together until smooth:
3 T flour
1 can of evaporated milk
Add to soup stirring constantly.

Continue stirring while bringing soup to a boil again.
Reduce heat, stir until thickened.
Add crumbled bacon.

Garnish with finely chopped green onion. like the columns that sustain the four corners of a house. For it was that same Love which planted a glorious garden redolent with precious herbs and noble flowers--roses and lilies--which breathed forth a wondrous fragrance, that garden on which the true Solomon was accustomed to feast his eyes.
-Hildegard of Bingen in a letter to the Monk Guibert, 1176

* recipes taken from Heilen und kochen mit Hildegard von Bingen, a TRIAS Book, 2011 

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