Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy
Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy

11 Patron Saints of Food, Coffee, and Alcohol

Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy
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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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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