“Cooking up Magic”

A beautiful slice of life from a devoted witch, mother, teacher, and cook:

These are the magics born in each moment.  The Witch Herself the Center and Circumference clad not in robes or draped in jet and amber but in the t-shirt she slept in, a pair of sweat pants and a dishcloth tucked into her waistband.  She stands at the kitchen counter as an altar.  She wields a steel butcher knife for an athame and a wooden spoon as her wand.

Read Cooking up Magic and send out a breath of thanks for that which sustains you today.

Today is a holy day.

Today is Pi Day.

March 14, or 3/14, is celebrated as being an approximation of the mathematical constant pi. It’s a reason to celebrate being a geek and an excuse to eat pie, which are two causes I can support.

Years ago, I started saying, “Pie is the most sacred of all foods.” At first, I think it was a joke–something I would say because I really like pie. But over time, I have come to believe that any food made with loving intention is sacred. For me, personally, pie reminds me of my grandfather, who would fill his kitchen table with pies and cakes and cookies on Sunday. He used to say that he only wanted to heat the oven once a week, so every Sunday meant a sugar rush for me. His baking still sends joy into my life, even all these years after his death.

To celebrate the magic that is food cooked with love, I baked a blackberry-almond-chocolate pie. My partner, my friends and I enjoyed it as the sun was setting. Whenever I bake a pie, I like to charge it with some kind magic, and I like to cut symbols into the crust to anchor the pie’s intention. (I learned this from my friend Donald, who has baked some truly lovely pies.) This pie is charged with prosperity, balance, and beauty. Here is a picture:

Wishing you and yours a happy Pi(e) Day!

Introduction

This is my first post on the Magical Eating blog, so I want to introduce myself: I’m Matt. I live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, with my partner and two cats.

I also wanted to introduce my three chickens. After some deliberation and much planning, my partner and I acquired three Silkie hens last summer. We had two motivations for the chicken project: One, we wanted fresh eggs. Two, we wanted to have a sense of where our food comes from, and what is required to raise chickens for eggs. We were feeling that we didn’t have a sense of where our food comes from, or what it takes to get it to the table.

So we joined the growing “urban hen” movement. My father and I built a small coop and run for the ladies, and we purchased three pullets. (Chicken term for the lay person: a “pullet” is a female chicken older than a chick but still in her first year.) We chose pullets because we wanted to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were getting female birds. It can be difficult to determine the sex of a chick, since they mostly are identical balls of fluff. Roosters are lovely, but they crow–and not just in the morning, either. Roosters are also not necessary: If you didn’t already know, hens will lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not.

I found that raising chickens is, for the most part, pretty easy. I check on their food and water at least once a day–usually when I gather whatever eggs they have laid. I usually pick them up a couple of times a week and give them a quick once-over, just to see if they are healthy.

Keeping chickens in the country is no big deal, I recognize. But we live in an urban area and my backyard is very small–about 25 feet square. And my neighbors have a clear view of the entire yard from their house, so they can see the ladies. And still, the chickens are no problem at all. There is no smell and they aren’t loud. If I can keep chickens in the space that I have, I really believe that almost any space is sufficient for a couple of hens.

Even though our girls are from a breed that isn’t know for being proficient layers, a good week means between 8 and 12 eggs, which is plenty for the two of us. And the eggs are fantastic. The chickens have also made interesting pets, which is something that I did not predict. One of them in particularly (“Thelma”) has become pretty tame, and will sit on my shoulder.

So, what does that have to do with magical eating? I believe that magic works through the building and tending of relationships–with Mysterious Ones, with the multiverse Herself, with my own soul. Magical eating, for me, is the tending of relationships through the food that I select and prepare. When I choose organic, or free-trade, or local food options, I am making a choice and tending my relationship with the Mysterious Ones of the Earth in a conscious way.

Each day when I go outside and check on the birds, I know that I am tending a relationship with the chickens–but also with myself and my partner because we are eating the eggs, and with my garden and the earth because chicken manure makes amazing fertilizer, and with the Earth because I am not requiring a refrigerated truck to bring me fresh eggs. This action builds a web of connection, and is part of a larger magic to build a sustainable life on this Earth. I remember once, during the creation of sacred space, being asked to call my allies, and I called my chickens. They feed me, and in return, I feed and care for them–they are my allies.

Keeping these animals solidifies my understanding of what magical eating is, and what “food activism” is. That is why I consider chicken keeping part of my magical life.

Blessings to you on this sunny Detroit morning.


All three chickens, eating.


This is Iola, right before she pecked at the camera. I believe that she thought it was some new kind of food.


Here is a bowl of eggs from the girls.

Seed dreams and other things…

Forsythia
Forsythia

I am dreaming of spring…no, lusting for spring and the food magic of gardening.

It may seem a bit early to be doing so since I live in well-wintered Chicago but I am a child of more southernly climes and my seasonal rhythms are forever set by Tennessee.  There, where the rolling hills dance with the Cumberland River, March brings green kisses and buttercups amidst the heavy winds and rain.  April (a favorite for me as it is my birthday month) would be mild, sweet-scented and full of the ephemeral pastels that only spring can yield.

Though warmer temps won’t be in ChiTown for a long while (and in fact it is snowing here as I type) I am jazzed about spring and visions of this year’s food garden.  I live in a “green building” (which strives to be as sustainable as possible) and together we have worked to create an edible landscape in our yard.  Last year marked our first attempt which was not wholly successful.  While we got some perennials established (including some raspberries that I liberated from my former garden under a midnight moon) we lost much of our harvest to the critters.  Yup, we became a catering service for the birds, squirrels, raccoons, bunnies, possum, skunks and rats of the neighborhood (and you thought Chicago didn’t have wildlife).

Having learned that lesson a bit sadly, we are making plans for this year that will still allow us to practice permaculture (which won’t harm the animals) but will allow us to bring healthy, fresh, local produce from our yard to our tables.  In addition to gardening, we are also planning on raising chickens (which is very exciting to me).  We will build a coop in early spring and hope to have four chickens who will bless our lives with laughter, our garden with bug-eating (and poop!) and our kitchens with fresh eggs.  At that point I feel sure that I’ll give up the veganism (but that, I fear, is another post all-together).

So in garden planning we are considering what we like to eat, what the land seems to desire, what is expensive to buy at the store and what will fit given our resources.  I am also thinking about ways to continue to weave magic into the food garden and my daily life. 

Last year we charged the seeds and plants as they were planted and transplanted.  I also did a lot with water, charging it from the rain barrels before pouring it on the plants.  I’d like to continue that work and feel inspired by rune magic and the work of  Masaru Emoto  (I’m seeing a well decorated and intentioned watering can in my future!).  My roommate and I also believe that singing is a powerful magical act so we try to spin a lot of tunes in the backyard (despite sometimes getting protests from the neighbors and/or being set upon by swarms of biting bugs).  I am working to put much more energy into my relationship with Fae and the Spirits of the Land there.  I have built an altar in the yard (from stones from my ancestral home in TN) but feel as though I am only beginning to have a relationship with the beloved denizens of that place.  I am partially challenged in this by our housemates who are not pagan and who whisk away any offerings I leave out.  However, I am hoping that in time the beings who dwell there will come to know me, welcome me and will want our little ecosystem to thrive.

I would love to hear from those of you that grow your own edibles and hope that we can share and learn together as the season progresses.  Perhaps by weaving plans and dreams of spring we can pass these last, glittering winter months with cozy ease as we prepare for next year’s bounty. 

I leave you with a bit of music to feed your seed dreams…enjoy!:  \”Suvetar, Goddess of Spring\” by Gjallarhorn

Family Rituals: Whine and Cheese Night

Over the past couple of months, our family (which, it seems, is rarely in the same place at the same time — and conscious — except for 6:30-7am or so) has begun to develop a weekly ritual.  I refer to it, with great deliberation and fondness, as Whine and Cheese night.

It started when elfin called me on a Monday around home-going time, and would I bring home some soup ingredients?  Whole Foods provided the soup ingredients, and also some tempting small pieces of cheese (1-2oz each).  The size allows for a bit of experimentation, and also for a variety of flavors.  Right next to the cheddar was a lovely bowl of Braeburn apples, so one of those came as well, and a plain hearth roll.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the family home when I arrived.  “If I’d known you were here, I would have brought more bread,” I said.  “I guess we’ll have to help you eat it anyway” was more or less the sentiment.  elfin brought out a small glass of port, those of us who don’t much like alcohol had some perfectly decadent grape juice, and in all we did considerably more giggling than whining.

This seems, to my considerable pleasure, to be developing into a ritual.  Most recently it was marked by my coming home on a Monday, considerably underslept and (oh dear) grumpy, to find that K had brought home cheese, and we could all catch up with each other after most of a week away.  After reducing some Sierra Mountain Tomme, some goodies from England, and a very tasty pear to crumbs and rinds (our dog says rinds are excellent dog treats, so she attends … attentively), we were reconnected and (speaking for myself, anyway) considerably less grumpy.

Having dinner together every night is a pleasant fantasy, but what with part-time jobs, sports, hobbies, it’s just unlikely to happen.  A weekly ritual seems to be helping us to develop an ecological balance between time spent in the wider community and time spent refreshing our smaller community.

Dances with Sourdough

WWC09SD2.JPGOne of the Hearth Path teachers made sourdough starter with magical intent: created on the full moon, used to bake bread for rituals, and treated as a magical tool by both her and the path students at camp.

Bringing starter home has been like a new baby coming into the house — it has to be kept warm (but not too warm), fed regularly, and kept clean.

I, and the other community members who are tending the starter, are getting used to its quirks, notably a tendency toward dense but flavorful loaves. There’s something reassuring to posting “my first loaf was flat and dense (like a beanie), but remarkably tasty” and reading the same responses from others.

The picture is of my second attempt — still quite dense, but improving — and of the half gallon of starter that’s about to go into three or four loaves for a class this weekend.

So what does this all have to do with “magical” eating? It carries two kinds of symbolism: community magic and a “shaping” magic.

I’m aware, when I work with starter, that it not only acts as a living organism but that the starter is actually a community of many organisms. Finding the right mix of flavor and texture involves a balancing act (or dance) of time, water, and temperature to coax out the right blend of organisms. Unlike my garden, I can’t go in and just pluck out “weeds” from the starter, but have to pay attention to what it is doing and nudge it in the corresponding direction. Magically, I may say “may my community be fed / may my community live in balance” while mixing the starter. More directly, I can nudge and guide and nourish the kinds of interactions I would love to see in the community around me.

“Shaping” magic often comes into play while making loaves — images of family being fed, or those who need holding (as the gluten network holds the loaf together), or those who need to “rise up” from difficult circumstances, or that which needs to be increased. I can work with all those images and the energies they raise while shaping bread, tending it through the proofing process, and into the final baking.

May we all be fed, especially in these difficult times.

– elfin

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