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11 Patron Saints of Food, Coffee, and Alcohol

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Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy

Soufflé not rising? Homebrew beer not bubbly? Bees … suffering Colony Collapse Disorder? There may be an app for everything these days, but guaranteed, there are patron saints for more—including disasters of the food-and-drink-related variety. So rather than turning to your iPhone for practical intercession, how about turning to the patron saint of baking or beer-making or beekeeping for divine intervention?

1. Bacon: Saint Anthony the Abbott

Saint Anthony the Abbott is technically a patron saint of butchers, but since there are so many patron saints of butchers—including the apostles John, Bartholomew, Andrew, and Peter—Anthony can afford to specialize in bacon. He was a 4th century ascetic who lived for 20 years in an abandoned fort, only occasionally performing miracles and healing people who broke in on his solitude. He is frequently depicted with pigs, possibly owing to his use of pig fat in his healing concoctions, so he was adopted by pig butchers as their patron saint—meaning that if you’re craving the crispy, smoky flavor of good bacon, Anthony is the man you want to talk to.

2. Coffee: Saint Drogo

Saint Drogo, born the son of a Flemish nobleman in 1105 in Flanders, was the original multi-tasker—he could reportedly “bilocate” and was seen simultaneously working in the fields and going to Mass on Sundays. This undoubtedly took a lot of energy, which is probably one of the reasons why he is the patron saint of coffee and coffeehouses (as well as ugly people and cattle).

3. Baking: Saints Elizabeth of Hungary and Nicholas

Having bread troubles? You’ve got two saints to call on: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess born in 1205 who rejected courtly life in order to distribute bread to the poor, and Saint Nicholas—yep, that Saint Nick, the jolly fat man with the belly like a bowl full of jelly. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop who rescued three poor women from a life of prostitution by tossing bags of gold through their window at night; he’s also the patron saint of children, pawnbrokers, and Greece. 

4. Beer: Saints Nicholas, Luke, and Augustine

If you’re having trouble with your beer—whether you're suffering a homebrew disaster or the waitress is taking too long to bring your pint—then you’ve got three different saints to whom you could appeal. There’s Saint Nicholas, mentioned above; Saint Luke, author of the third Gospel and considered the first Christian physician; and Saint Augustine of Hippo (top). Augustine, who lived in the early 5th century, had a boozy, wantonly licentious lifestyle;  he earned saint status after giving up his wanton ways, and became the patron saint of beer sometime after.

5. Wine: Saints Vincent and Urban

Saint Vincent of Saragossa died so that we could have good wine. Well, not exactly: The 3rd century Spanish martyr died for his faith, after some serious torture involving iron hooks and being roasted on a red-hot gridiron. But since his death, he’s become the patron saint of wine and wine-makers. So thank you, Saint Vincent. And thank you, Saint Urban, another patron saint of wine. He was the bishop of Langres in France during the 4th century, but found himself on the receiving end of some persecution after the political situation got murky. He hid in a vineyard, and took the opportunity to convert the vineyard workers who concealed him; he went from vineyard to vineyard thereafter, spreading the Gospel.

6. Hangovers and alcoholics: Saints Bibiana and Monica

If, unlike Augustine, you’re not quite ready to give up your inebriate ways, then you may want to keep a prayer to Saint Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers, on your lips. Little is known about the 4th century virgin and martyr, except that she was reportedly both a virgin and a martyr—she was, according to legend, tied to a pillar on the orders of the Governor of Rome and beaten to death after she refused to convert or be seduced. Why she’s the patron saint of hangovers, as well as headaches, the mentally ill, and single women, is totally unclear. Tired of having hangovers all the time? The first step might be to admit you have a problem (beer for breakfast might be an indication). The second step might be to reach out to Saint Monica. She was the mother of wild, drunken St. Augustine and she earned her saintly status by spending 17 years praying for him. She’s the patron saint of alcoholics. 

7. Fish: Saint Neot

But back to cheerier topics, like tiny saints and fish. St. Neot, a Glastonbury, England monk who died in 877, is the patron saint of fish. He was also reportedly only 15 inches tall and spent his days in a well, water up to his neck, practicing his devotions.

8. Cooking: Saint Lawrence

Making a fancy dinner? Saint Lawrence of Rome is your go-to man, the patron saint of cooking. A 3rd century Roman deacon, he and his brethren ran afoul of the Prefect of Rome, an occupational hazard of being a Christian back then. He was sentenced to death by slow roasting over an open fire, but he was reportedly so filled with God’s strength and joy that he didn’t even feel the flames. At one point, he even joked with his torturers, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

9. Grocers, farmers, dairy workers, and beekeepers: Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Isidore the Farmer, Saint Brigid of Kildare, and Saint Ambrose

Before you get down to cooking, you probably want make sure that your local grocery store has all the ingredients you need. For that, you can appeal to Michael the Archangel, one of the stars of the Old Testament. Some claim that grocers adopted Michael as their patron saint because he was also the patron saint of law enforcement officials, who protected the grocers’ business. But how about the people who grow the food that turned up at market? For that, you’ll want Saint Isidore the Farmer who was, well, a farmer and whose plowing was often accomplished with the help of three angels. If you’re on the look out for some really good cheese to pair with a fine wine (thank you, Saint Vincent), have a quick chat with 5th century Saint Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s big three: Before giving her life over to virginity and Christian piety, she’d made a success of the dairy owned by the Druid landowner who’d bought her from her mother. And finally, offer a prayer of thanks to Saint Ambrose, patron saint of bee-keepers, for keeping the natural world buzzing, because without bees, life would lack sweetness (and economic, agricultural stability). Ambrose, who lived in Rome and Milan in the 4th century, earned his patronage from his nickname, the Honey Tongued Doctor, owing to his eloquent speaking and preaching. 

10. Wait-staff: Saint Martha

Or maybe, you’ll just go out to eat. At which point, your waiter or waitress may just offer a quick prayer to Saint Martha. Martha, the patron saint of wait staff and housewives (who sometimes feel like wait staff, without the tips), frequently hosted Jesus and his Apostles at dinner. But one day, she became irritated that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping serve and was instead sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus admonished Martha by noting that all her serving was distracting her from hearing his message. Martha learned her lesson and next time he came around, she stopped what she was doing to be with him. She became the patron saint of those who serve, especially food.

11. Stomach pain and choking: Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Timothy, Saint Brice, and Saint Blaise

You’ve come down with food poisoning, it happens. Who are you going to call? Saint Charles Borromeo was a 16th century cardinal who dedicated his life to helping the poor and sick; exactly why he’s associated with stomach ailments is unclear, but he is. Saint Timothy, a 1st century early Christian who was stoned to death, is also the patron saint against intestinal disorders, although again for reasons occluded by time. And then there’s wild Saint Brice, a 5th century priest who was at first better known for his wicked ways, but whose genuine conversion earned him a place in the canon; he’s another patron saint of tummy troubles, also for unknown reasons. Saint Blaise once rescued a child from choking to death on a fishbone, so he’s the patron saint of throat ailments (choking would be one); he also once convinced a wolf to return a pig he’d stolen from a poor woman. Handy guy to have around.

There are more saints than there are days of the year to celebrate them, sure, but a surprising number of things don’t have a patron saint—like chocolate, for example, or tea. What would you like to see a patron saint of?

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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Hey, Vern: It's the Ernest P. Worrell Story
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Mill Creek Entertainment

In her review of the 1991 children’s comedy Ernest Scared Stupid, The Washington Post film critic Rita Kempley described the titular character, the dim-witted but well-meaning Ernest P. Worrell, as “the global village idiot.” As portrayed by Kentucky native Jim Varney, Ernest was in the middle of a 10-film franchise that would see him mistakenly incarcerated (Ernest Goes to Jail), enlisting in the military (Ernest in the Army), substituting for an injured Santa (Ernest Saves Christmas), and returning to formal education in order to receive his high school diploma (Ernest Goes to School).

Unlike slapstick contemporaries Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore, Varney took a far more unusual route to film stardom. With advertising executive John Cherry III, Varney originated the Ernest character in a series of regional television commercials. By one estimate, Ernest appeared in over 6000 spots, hawking everything from ice cream to used cars. They grew so popular that the pitchman had a 20,000-member fan club before his first movie, 1987’s Ernest Goes to Camp, was even released.

Varney and Ernest became synonymous, so much so that the actor would dread going on dates for fear Ernest fans would approach him; he sometimes wore disguises to discourage recognition. Though he could recite Shakespeare on a whim, Varney was rarely afforded the opportunity to expand his resume beyond the denim-jacketed character. It was for this reason that Varney, though grateful for Ernest’s popularity, would sometimes describe his notoriety as a “mixed blessing,” one that would come to a poignant end foreshadowed by one of his earliest commercials.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1949, Varney spent his youth being reprimanded by teachers who thought his interest in theater shouldn’t replace attention paid to math or science. Varney disagreed, leaving high school just two weeks shy of graduation (he returned in the fall for his diploma) to head for New York with $65 in cash and a plan to perform.

The off-Broadway plays Varney appeared in were not lucrative, and he began to bounce back and forth between Kentucky and California, driving a truck when times were lean and appearing in TV shows like Petticoat Junction when his luck improved. During one of his sabbaticals from Hollywood, he met Cherry, who cast him as an aggressive military instructor named Sergeant Glory in an ad for a car dealer in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1981, Varney was asked back to film a new spot for Cherry, this one for a dilapidated amusement park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that Cherry considered so unimpressive he didn’t want to show it on camera. Instead, he created the character of Ernest P. Worrell, a fast-talking, often imbecilic local who is constantly harassing his neighbor Vern. (“Know what I mean, Vern?” became Ernest’s catchphrase.)

The spot was a hit, and soon Varney and Cherry were being asked to film spots for Purity Dairies, pizza parlors, convenience stores, and other local businesses. In the spots, Ernest would usually look into the camera—the audience shared Vern’s point of view—and endorse whatever business had enlisted his services, usually stopping only when Vern devised a way to get him out of sight.

Although the Purity commercials initially drew complaints—the wide-angle lens created a looming Ernest that scared some children—his fame grew, and Varney became a rarity in the ad business: a mascot without a permanent corporate home. He and Cherry would film up to 26 spots in a day, all targeted for a specific region of the country. In some areas, people would call television stations asking when the next Ernest spot was due to air. A Fairfax, Virginia Toyota dealership saw a 50 percent spike in sales after Varney began appearing in ads.

Logging thousands of spots in hundreds of markets, Varney once said that if they had all been national, he and Cherry would have been wealthy beyond belief. But local spots had local budgets, and the occasions where Ernest was recruited for a major campaign were sometimes prohibited by exclusivity contracts: He and Cherry had to turn down Chevrolet due to agreements with local, competing car dealers.

Still, Varney made enough to buy a 10-acre home in Kentucky, expressing satisfaction with the reception of the Ernest character and happily agreeing to a four-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures for a series of Ernest features. Released on a near-constant basis between 1987 and 1998, the films were modest hits (Ernest Goes to Camp made $28 million) before Cherry—who directed several of them—and Varney decided to strike out on their own, settling into a direct-to-video distribution model.

“It's like Oz, and the Wizard ain't home," Varney told the Sun Sentinel in 1985, anticipating his desire for autonomy. “Hollywood is a place where everything begins but nothing originates. It's this big bunch of egos slamming into each other.”

Varney was sometimes reticent to admit he had ambitions beyond Ernest, believing his love of Shakespeare and desire to perform Hamlet would be perceived as the cliched story of a clown longing to be serious. He appeared in 1994’s The Beverly Hillbillies and as the voice of Slinky Dog in 1995’s Toy Story. But Ernest would continue to be his trademark.

The movies continued through 1998, at which point Varney noticed a nagging cough. It turned out to be lung cancer. As Ernest, Varney had filmed an anti-smoking public service announcement in the 1980s. In his private life, he was a chain smoker. He succumbed to cancer in 2000 at the age of 50, halting a series of planned Ernest projects that included Ernest Goes to Space and Ernest and the Voodoo Curse.

Varney may never have gotten an opportunity to perform in a wider variety of roles, but he did receive some acknowledgment for the one he had mastered. In 1989, Varney took home an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a children’s series, a CBS Saturday morning show titled Hey, Vern: It’s Ernest!

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “because it's as hard to escape from it as it is to get into it.''

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