MAEVE BRENNAN, PART II: DINING AT THE CROSS AND PASSION COLLEGE
by Sean Landers
Sometime last year I wrote a piece about the Irish‑American writer, Maeve Brennan (1917‑ 1993), and the time she spent as a student in the Cross and Passion College in Kilcullen in 1929/1930. Her stay there was quite unhappy. In one of her pieces, “Lessons, Lessons And Then More Lessons”, published in the “New Yorker ” magazine under her pen‑name, The Long Winded Lady, she describes the food she had to eat in the boarding school. She felt that she was being pursued and persecuted by two particular nuns who thought that she had the Devil in her.
“Those two nuns tracked him (the Devil) down even in the refectory, where we had breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. They never seemed to notice what was on our plates. Awful food. It was always tea and bread scraped with butter, except at midday dinner, when it was boiled potatoes. And at supper the tea was replaced with vile cocoa. For breakfast on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays, the tea and b&b was accompanied by one tablespoonful of dates that had been boiled into a thin soup or, as the nun who cooked it would have said, a jam.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays breakfast was emboldened by a wafer of cold porridge damped with blue milk, on Saturdays by an ugly morsel of bacon. Teatime and suppertime were all bread and butter, except that at teatime we were allowed to bring out the jam and cake we had received in packages from home. Some girls got parcels from home and some didn’t. Those who did had the privilege of going around from table to table (there were five long, long, narrow tables) carrying pots of jam and big cakes and bestowing their favours on the girls they liked and walking past the girls they didn’t like. There were about sixty of us, aged from seven to eighteen, and sometimes the room was quite busy at teatime, especially at the beginning of each term, when everybody had had something to talk about with. I can’t remember Sunday dinner, but on Mondays and Wednesdays it was boiled potatoes with black pudding that was nearly all grey and on Tuesdays and Thursdays it was said to be corned beef. On Fridays something fishy, and on Saturdays a stew ‑ an end of the week stew.
MORE RECENT MEALS
Later in the year I am hoping to publish accounts of more recent meals at the Cross and Passion College. I would love to hear from old school boarders who would be interested in sharing their memories of their experiences in the school in Kilcullen. If you would like to submit material please get in touch with me. They can be published anonymously if that is your wish but please do get in touch. You can contact me at email@example.com