Last summer I had one of those “aha moments” when my parents and I stopped at Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, N.Y. to buy Monk’s Bread.
That Aha Moment
The rolling grounds are neatly manicured and the abbey is welcoming. The Church Abbey where services are offered is gorgeous with colorful, abstract stained glass and walls made with bold, rounded rocks. It was heavy with silence and perfect for meditation.
My aha moment didn’t hit in the church but in the adjoining Book and Bread Store. It’s been ages since I’ve seen Monk’s Bread but as soon as I did memories of my grandparents came to mind. When they came to visit from Florida it was a special bread we had around for our breakfast toast.
Growing up in Western New York we enjoyed Monks’ Bread and the images of loaves sitting on grocery store racks is still in-“grained” in mind. (Apologies for the pun.) For all I knew it was made at the store. Sure, the bread’s logo is a monk and I thought that was the equivalent of Mr. Bubble and Mr. Clean, just some fictional character. Remember, that’s kid logic.
Immediately seeing the bread it all clicked. “Monks make the Monks’ Bread.”
Specifically, Abbey of the Genesee Trappist monks make the bread. More officially they are a community of contemplative monks belonging to the world-wide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.). The Abbey of the Genesee was founded in the spring of 1951 from the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY.
When the Abbey was established it had intended to generate an income by being a dairy farm but Brother Sylvester had crafted a bread recipe liked by the monks and visitors. The bread became highly requested and a larger oven was purchased so Brother Sylvester could keep up with demand. Today, the Abbey has a modern-day bakery supplying Western and Central New York and areas of Pennsylvania.
The Abbey is open to the public but the bread-making area is off limits. Visitors are welcome for liturgical prayer or to pray in the Abbey Church. The Church and reception room are open daily 2 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the website for Mass and Liturgical Schedule.
The Book and Bread Store sells more than the varieties of bread (including Whole Wheat , Sunflower and Multi-Grain). Cookies, fruit cakes, 1 LB cakes, jams, jellies, honey and coffee are sold along with an assortment of books. Book and Bread Store hours vary but Monday through Saturday, it’s open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. and after Mass to Noon, closed in the afternoon. Contact the store at (585) 243-0660 ext 27 if planning a visit during the holidays.
It’s been about a year since my visit and I still have some of the loaf of Maple Cinnamon bread in my freezer, saving it for those special occasions.
Did you grow up with Monks’ Bread?
Abbey of the Genesee
3258 River Rd.
Piffard, NY 14533
Tel: 585- 243-0660
Abbey of the Genesee is located about an hour’s drive east of Buffalo, N.Y.