“Turn me over. This side is done.”
You can’t make cracks like while being roasted alive and not get recognition for your general edge and style, so perhaps that’s why, St. Lawrence, the patron saint of comedians, librarians, paupers, cooks, brewers, and Canada (you work out the connections), had a big reputation from the start, or, to be precise, his end.
There really was a Lawrence. He really was a deacon in Rome and martyred during the great purge that also snagged the then pope, Sixtus II, in August of 258. As deacon of the church, Lawrence cared for the poor, served as one of the church’s treasurers and secretaries, spending its money and keeping track of its rolls and records (hence his patronage of archivists and librarians) and administered the Eucharist.
After his death, he was almost immediately honored. Constantine built a church over his remains 50 years later, and his feast day became one of the most important in the West.
That much is true about Lawrence. What likely aren’t true, but should be because of their pizzazz, are the stories surrounding his martyrdom. After capturing him, the Prefect of Rome demanded the treasure of the church. Lawrence asked for a few days to assemble it. Granted this, he showed up on the 10th of August with the church’s poor and sick and said, “Here are the treasures of the Church.” Not impressed by his knowledge of classical history (see the story of Cornelia who pulled a similar gag centuries earlier), the authorities condemned him to death on a gridiron.
Unable to let a bon mot go unuttered even when being roasted (hence his patronage of comedians), Laurence told his executioners ” Turn me over; this side is done.” Right before dying, he advised, “I’m cooked. Now you can eat me.” These quips earned him the status as a patron of cooks. As for the brewers, I guess beer has always gone with grilled meat.
In honor of sassy St. Lawrence, traditionally one eats cold meats and waffles, has a beer, and delivers a few-one liners. Theer are also some sweet dedicated to him. I once made Bizcocho San Lorenzo, a traditional sweet from Spain. I resisted making it for years because, “No one,” I thought, “could like chestnuts that much.” And, now that I made it, I think, “No one could like chestnuts that much.” But perhaps you do and can get past the rather unappetizing color. For the non chestnut lovers, I’ve often baked biscotti for Lawrence because biscotti are twice cooked too.
This year though I’m having a beer and looking forward to telling the traditional St. Lawrence Day joke:
What did God say to St. Lawrence when he entered heaven? “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Ba-da Bing! That’s Jehovah, people! Let’s give Him a hand. He’ll be here all eternity!