Father Dominic to present his baking skills at Holy Cross

Father Dominic Garramone, a teacher at St. Bede Academy in Peru since 1983, grew up in the kitchen with his mother. Father is bringing his kitchen savvy and teaching methods to Holy Cross School. (Photo contributed)


Staff writer

MENDOTA – Father Dominic Garramone didn't learn how to bake in culinary school.

He learned the old-fashioned way – in the kitchen with mama.

“I grew up in a house where baking was a normal activity. It wasn't just for special occasions or for holidays like Christmas,” Fr. Dom said. “In our house, baking was just a thing you did every day. I don't remember my mother (Mary Garramone) ever telling me, 'Get out of the kitchen, I'm busy.' It was more like, 'Get in here and beat these eggs,' or 'Help me measure this flour.' She really wanted me to engage in the kitchen and take part in family meal prep.”

Once he left his family home in Peoria and went to Illinois Wesleyan College for drama and St. Mary's University of Minnesota in Wenona, he continued what his mother started.

“When I got to college at Illinois Wesleyan, they didn't have food service on Sunday evenings, said Fr. Dom. “Sometimes on Sunday afternoons, I would make bread and guys would come to my room after they went to the store and bought things like ham and cheese, and we would make sandwiches in my room. Sometimes through the RA (residential assistant) I would sponsor spaghetti dinners. I baked all through college.

“When I got to the monastery, the monks found out I knew how to bake and that I liked doing it, and started leaving recipes in my mailbox. Some of them said, 'My grandmother used to make this every Christmas. I haven't had it in decades, could you make it?'

Fr. Dominic, who has taught at St. Bede Academy since 1983 and is currently the head of the religion department, hasn't stopped baking as he has been sharing his skills all over the country, including from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at the Holy Cross Gymnasium in Mendota.

Tickets for the program are $15 at the door. For reservations, call Jeanne Fitzpatrick at 815-343-0734 or Deb Rogers at 815-910-5052 on or before April 26.

“The presentation is going to be things you can do with basic bread dough. A lot of people learned how to bake during the pandemic,” Fr. Dominic said. “They may have always wanted to bake, they had time at home, maybe couldn't get to the grocery store as much and baking bread was what they chose. They usually learn how to make a basic white bread, maybe a wheat, and some people got into sour dough.

“I have found that people appreciate learning how to take a basic white dough and turn it into a lot of different things. This program is basically on baked bread and beyond.”

The monk who knows how to make bread, which he has been called, has made breaking bread his lifelong endeavor outside of his mother's kitchen and his dorm room.

“Breaking Bread with Father Dominic” was a syndicated TV program on PBS for 10 years as he had three years of production (covered 72 percent of the American TV market at one time) and seven years of re-runs as the initial re-run range was three years but other markets picked up the show for an additional four years.

He has published 13 books with 11 of them being cookbooks, one children's book, and one book on the spirituality of baking.

With his baking expertise and his star power, St. Mary's Altar Society and Holy Cross couldn't write an email fast enough to see if Fr. Dom would share his talent in Mendota.

“I think it will be cool. He does a lot of virtual presentations of his baking. We're going to have him live, which is really nice,” said Fitzpatrick, whose son Daniel Fitzpatrick teaches at St. Bede and helped connect Fr. Dom with Jeanne. “He's a dynamic speaker and his cookbooks are really interesting because he puts stories behind them. He gives you more information on the recipes he has.

“His latest cookbook, “Breakfast Breads & Sweet Treats,” relates to Holy Cross because we run a lot of bake sales through the St. Mary's Altar Society. I thought, 'This is right up our alley.'”

The food items will be extended from Fr. Dom's presentation as Fitzpatrick and the St. Mary's Altar Society wanted to share as much of his baking as possible.

Fr. Dom's cookbooks will be available for purchase at the program as well via cash, check, or Venmo.

“We're also going to make a few recipes from his book so people can taste different things,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that will be kind of fun as well. We hope it's a wonderful day and we're excited about getting Father Dom to come to Holy Cross.

“This is a big deal for us. I hope it will be a time of community for our community. We have invited the other churches in Mendota to come see Father Dom. We hope we'll get a lot of community involvement.”

The baking Father feels the same.

Actually, community has been one of his main principles throughout his baking journey.

“I would really love to see a lot of people at this event just because I've been told it is entertaining even if you're not a baker,” Fr. Dom said. “I like the idea of breaking bread together. The word company or companion comes from the Latin word, com (meaning together and panis), which means with bread.

“When we form a company, it's because we break bread together. These events that I do at parishes are a way to bind the community together for a common experience. I think that's a positive thing and something that is needed in our current societal circumstances. The more we can get together with each other, the better.”

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