KRAKOW, Poland — Emerging from the quiet of her convent, Sister Anastazja Pustelnik was confronted by a jarring image — her smiling face on posters plastered around town to hawk the cookbooks that have made the 59-year-old nun one of Poland’s bestselling authors.
It’s fame Sister Anastazja never bargained for when she left the material world as a young woman, expecting to toil in obscurity for God. But her ability to create easy-to-follow recipes for delectable cakes and traditional home cooking has resulted in five cookbooks since 2001 that have sold a combined 1.1 million copies in this country of 38 million.
Today, her cookbooks are found in shops and online, their glossy covers showing Pustelnik with an apron over her black nun’s habit and a mixing bowl or serving platter in hand, generating the unwelcome fame thrust upon her.
“Once when I was walking through town and there were advertisements for one of my books, I felt like tearing them down,” she confessed. “But I was afraid of paying a fine.”
Sister Anastazja’s success comes amid a broader trend of men and women of God earning renown and profit in Europe with cookbooks and TV shows. A Spanish television channel, for example, broadcasts “Bocaditos de Cielo” — Little Mouthfuls of Heaven — in which Sisters Liliana and Beatriz of the Franciscan Conceptionist Sisters Convent guide viewers through the culinary steps for making ancient sweet recipes while also offering insight into their cloistered life.
In Poland, a deeply Roman Catholic country with a strong bond to the late Polish pope, John Paul II, the appeal of Sister Anastazja also reflects how the Catholic church is still present in daily life.
Priests and nuns are common characters in Polish television serials. And a nun is a much more likely kitchen guide to Polish village housewives than such sultry cooking superstars as Britain’s Nigella Lawson or the American Rachael Ray.