Eating in the monastery


What could we eat in Carmel at the time of Thérèse?

The answer involves both the contents of the plate and very complex table manners.


couverts-refectoire repas

What do we eat



Bread with each bite

Soup with leeks and potatoes, as was the norm at the time. At the Buissonnets, they ate morning soup with onions.

Lent: bread and simply clear broth.

Breakfast Sunday after Mass, or around 9 am was served in large yellow tureens of very hot rice with sorrel (from oral tradition).


You should not eat a single bite, be it fish, vegetables or dessert, without bread, which was the basis of all food.

Without bread in every bite, we would have treated the sisters as gluttons.

Noon and evening meal


For feasts

No meat except for sick sisters

At noon we eat fish or eggs (but no eggs during Lent) with vegetables and fruit. Sweetened dairy products, noon or evening. A small piece of cheese on occasion.

At night, only vegetables and fruits. Remember that vegetables and fruits come from the garden almost exclusively.


The menu was a bitmore elaborate - without meat. 

Read letters from Marie Guérin to her father, for example: Thank you, thank you... for the good dishes with cream and bottles of white wine (Sept. 7, 1895); again a basket of plums (Sept. 1895); buckwheat pancakes, crepes, doughnuts, fried pastry (Dec. 28, 1895); and so on. Sometimes she made a direct request: for the feast of our Mother could we not have trout? (June 13, 1896).

...and no fork please!

Snack during Lent for supper


The refectory

Clear broth and fruits left over from noon.

  Click to see old photos of the refectory.


Little recipes of the old days

mitonnee soup


omelet with apples

The word mitonnée means simmered in Norman patois. As well in the last century it was called panade, a gruel served to weaned babies.

Every evening in the Carmel of Lisieux, the converse sisters went from the kitchen to the warming room for recreation with baskets carefully covered with white canvas and began to cut into tiny pieces a good amount of bread.

The next day they put this cut up bread into boiling water that was lightly salted and the mixture was allowed to "simmer" a long time, until you get a creamy soup, where one could no longer distinguish the pieces. This soup was eaten every morning, Easter to September 14. You could then add a little milk and butter, which we didn’t do from 14 September to Easter (fast of the Order), as we took nothing in the morning, but had this soup at the noon meal.

It turned out that the soup was more or less thick to the chagrin of young people (concerned with their figure), who were rebuffed by the elders: "In our time, the wooden spoon could stand upright!" In the small inner tempests, where it is easy to dwell on grievances, it was recommended, "Do not make simmered soup."


For the great feast days, Sr. Geneviève (Céline, who was Provisor) had an omelet made with sweetened apple compote.
We cooked lightly some peeled and sliced apples with a little water and sugar and put them aside. The idea is to still have some consistent pieces of apple.
We then made the ​​omelet with eggs beaten in water and a little flour, for volume.
We fold the omelet in two with the apples inside.


rice with sorrel

On Sundays, we made for soup rice with sorrel that Thérèse speaks of in her words recorded in the Yellow notebookdated August 12th.

Cook the rice in water as usual. Brown the sorrel in butter until cooked. Add the sorrel to the cooked rice.



How to eat in the refectory

A complex carmelite know-how

Manual of Spiritual Direction

After the blessing is made, one arranges oneself at table in a most modest manner, hands on the Scapular, eyes lowered and the spirit raised to God. One imagines that one is in the company of Your Lord and the Apostles at the holy Cenacle of which the refectory is the image. Upon the sound of the second strike of the bell, one takes hold of the napkin and takes a piece of bread and kisses it, blessing God who gives us sustenance. This acknowledgement should keep us from failing to appreciate what is presented to us, whether good or bad. If it is not according to one’s taste, it is well to remember the bile and vinegar taken by Our Lord on the cross for our love. It is simply to satisfy the needs of the body and the spirit should not think any more of it. However, one should dedicate the ear and the heart to listen and appreciate the lecture, just as the Apostles listen to the words of Jesus Christ during the Last Supper.

It is also necessary to maintain a modest attitude and to practice mortification relative custody of one’s eyes. One should not look at those seated to one’s sides. While drinking, one should hold the cup with both hands. It is an ancient custom of the Order and, having drunk, one should make a sign of the cross. It is necessary also to use one’s napkin as infrequently as possible. After eating the stew, one takes a little water to clean one eating ware and when one puts it down care should be taken to ensure it is very clean. After dinner, one gathers the crumbs, in the spirit of poverty, one should recall of what Our Lord reminded the Apostles, after the multiplication of the loaves. It is necessary that, before leaving the table, one should ensure that the cup, the knife and all other things are very clean. 

Paper of exactions

They will then make an act of renunciation of the satisfaction which might be taken in the meal, offering also to Our Lord the mortification to which our state of life obliges us, and remembering that He delights to communicate the sweetness of His spirit even here below to the souls who, for love of Him, willingly deprive themselves of the satisfaction of their senses.  When the little bell rings the second time, after having made the sign of the Cross, they will turn up their sleeves; they will then take their bread, make the sign of the Cross upon it before cutting it, and kiss it, blessing God and holy Religion, who gives it to us as an alm.

They must keep their eyes cast down before them, without turning their head or looking at the others or at what is given to them, and when the server presents the portions they must make a deep inclination to her, taking what is nearest to hand without any choice. They must take care to hold themselves straight, neither leaning upon the table nor against the wall, their feet withdrawn under their habit without ever crossing them, and their hands under the scapular before and after the meal. They must also be religious in their way of eating, careful not to eat with noise or hastily, nor yet too slowly, taking care to have finished with the others.

Each one should eat her soup and all that is reasonably necessary of the portions, endeavoring to do so not for the satisfaction of the senses, but by obedience and with a view to being better able to fulfill the Rule. Whatever repugnance may be felt must be struggled against, trying to overcome it and not to let it manifest itself exteriorly by any gesture.

Care must be taken not to put anything that can be eaten into the bowls and not to let crumbs of bread fall to the ground. Each one, when she has finished, must gather up the crumbs from her napkin and eat them in loving memory of Our Lord, Who, after He had worked the miracle of the multiplica­tion of the loaves, said to His disciples: "Gather up the fragments that remain lest they be lost." One should take care not to dirty one's fingers and napkin more than can be helped, and when one has finished wash one's knife and spoon, and in all things have a careful regard to cleanliness. 

It is not allowed to ask for anything in the Refectory unless it be bread and water. If a Sister perceives that something is wanting to one sitting next to her, she will procure it for her by making a sign to the server, or else she will go and tell the Mother Prioress or whoever is presiding. 

Enjoy your meal !

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