The Motley Monk:

A website featuring
ллллл  adventures in the (very good) Food served at Holy Innocents Hermitage II



A frequently asked question:

1. Who is "The Motley Monk"?

The Motley Monk is me, Richard M. Jacobs, an Augustinian priest who is assigned to Villanova University which is located 12 miles west of Philadelphia, where I have taught courses in Educational Leadership, Public Administration, Teacher Education, and Core Humanities for 20+ years.  If you are interested in what I have been doing during those years, check out my University webpage by clicking on my picture.  However, be sure to come back to The Motley Monk webpage and test out some of those recipes!


Why "Motley"?  The term is generally understood to mean "multi-faceted" and, I would think, being a priest, a professor, and a wanna-be chef who assists at two parishes on weekends and holy days is pretty multi-faceted!

Why "Monk"?  Well, monks traditionally live their lives in one monastery.  It's called "stability."  The religious order to which I belong, the Augustinians, technically are not "monks" but "friars."  Like monks, Augustinians live, for the most part, in monasteries and, like friars but unlike monks, Augustinians are transferred from place to place.  I guess that makes us "unstable."  My province of origin, the Chicago Province (officially called the "Midwest Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel"), has monasteries and houses in Chicago, IL, Tulsa, OK, Detroit, MI, and other cities of the Midwest but none in the East.  So, as a "friar" assigned to Villanova University (which is staffed by the Augustinians of the Eastern Province of St. Thomas of Villanova), I reside at HIH II.

Why at "HIH II" and not a house of the Eastern Province?  That question is partly answered on The Motley Monk homepage.  However, given my out-of-Province assignment and the limited space available both on-campus and near-campus for the Augustinians of the Eastern Province, I was allowed to move into HIH I where I lived for four years and subsequently have lived at HIH II for eight years.  A hermitage is normally attached to or located near a religious institution where the hermits come to congregate periodically for prayer, fellowship, good, and adult beverages.  In fact, the Augustinians originally were hermits living in the marshes of Icone, Italy, who were compelled to live together by Pope Innocent IV in 1256!

So, I'm not really a "monk" or a "friar," but live in a "hermitage," a term originally coined to poke fun at my good friend and fellow Augustinian, Fr. Jerry Nicholas, OSA.  Jerry is a very prayerful and contemplative sort who has always longed for a his own hermitage or Russian poustinia.  As life's twists and turns have twisted and turned, it ends up that I live in Jerry's hermitage!  However, the longer I have lived at HIH II, people think I am becoming a hermit, as Fr. Harry Erdlen, OSA, once exclaimed in a fit of pique, "My God, Richard, you're becoming a hermit!"

Now back to the purpose for this website: the very good food served at HIH II.

While I was growing up, both of my parents were terrific cooks.  I always enjoyed watching them cook and, of course, eating their food (except for calves' liver smothered in onions, bacon, and [for me, to kill the taste, ketchup]).  I also used to watch Julia Childs' television show on PBS with my Mom on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 p.m.  All of this sparked my life-long interest in learning to cook.  Julia Childs inspired me and a friend, Frank Buckingham, to make taffy one Tuesday after school.  It didn't quite work out the way it did for Julia Childs and when my Mom got home (that's how I know it was a Tuesday....Mom always went out to lunch and shopping with her Mom on Tuesday), the mess in the kitchen and the sticky cabinet knobs and refrigerator handle didn't win any stars (Frank and I were hoping for ллллл).

I spent the summers of my high school years as a short-order cook at Barney's, the restaurant adjacent to my Uncle Bill's tavern in Arlington Heights, IL.  I'd start each day washing the floors and cleaning washrooms at the tavern (my paternal grandmother, Nonnie, always made huge "Old World" style breakfasts in the tavern's kitchen each morning) and then I got things ready for 11:00 a.m. opening next door at Barney's.  Come to think of it, I really was the manager for Barney's because the owner never seemed to show up until noon and had me work the counter at lunch, clean the front after lunch, and complete all of the prep work for dinner before I would clean and close up at 8:00 p.m.  One of the "perks" was that I got to take home all of the leftover food, especially the fried chicken.  Unfortunately, we had so much frozen fried chicken in the freezer that I couldn't countenance eating fried chicken until I was a deacon at St. Joseph's Church in Pekin, IL.  The cook, Marge Wawryk, made the absolutely best fried chicken I have ever tasted (and homemade bread and strawberry pie, too).

Decades later, when I resided in a student apartment at Merrimack College (between 1996 and 1998, I was learning about higher educational administration from the College's President, Richard J. Santagati), I was forced to cook many of my meals for myself.  In turn, this meant designing menus, shopping, and cooking what I like to eat for guests who included Joe Cartier and his wife (they gave me a great hand blender that I use to this day), Joe Kelley and his wife, the President's Executive Assistant, Mary Ann Morin and her husband, Bill, and some members of the hockey team, including John Jakopin, who played in the NHL until his retirement in 2004.  Since returning to Villanova from Merrimack, I've spent the past 12 years culling recipes from a variety of resources which have kept my guests and myself as well from going hungry.