Honey, please?

Honey sweet
Honey sweet

Hello magical ones…

I have been inspired by the honey magic that took place at Wintercamp this year and have been continuing it at home.  I found some delicious local honey from the Chicago Honey Co-op, which I recommend highly for those in my area (check out their website, they have an interesting blog on beekeeping).  I also found a web site that will help you find local honey wherever you are!

I would like to gather some good honey recipes.  I see many on line but it is hard to determine the culinary quality on the page.  Do you have any “tried” recipes that feature honey which you’d like to share?  If so, please post them here.

I will share any mellifluous delights that I discover.

Much love to you and gratitude to the bees.

Splenda meets the ecosystem

I’ve been known to use Splenda (an artificial sweetener) in cooking for diabetic friends and those following an Atkins-like diet. Now, research done by a high school student in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search shows that Splenda isn’t broken down by most water treatment methods and thus raises questions of whether this could accumulate in our lakes and rivers.

But eventually she was allowed to subject sucralose to various treatments, like bacterial digestion, typically used in wastewater treatment plants. She found that sucralose resisted most of these treatments, and was only broken down into biodegradable molecules with extensive time and concentration of titanium oxide and ultraviolet light. Since few plants use these methods, that means almost all the sucralose people eat or drink winds up in the ecosystem.

More at the Scientific American blog

P.S. It isn’t broken down in the human body either.

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.

Bread is good!

I have finally made it here! I am happy abour the results of my last loaf. I just have to let the sponge sit a long time then let the dough rise a long time too. I got good bread with crust that is crunchy and good bubbles in the bread. I am excited to share this with my sister, who taught me to bake. What fun to share the bread with my loved ones!

Living simply (and souply)

kale-soup.jpg

Soup was one of the first things mom taught me to make — a few aromatics, some stock, tomato juice, and possibly some meat and/or pasta. 40-some years later, it’s a favorite in this household.

When Ambar came home with some kale, suggested by a nutritionist she knows, we sauteed it, we made fritatta, and we made soup. As we get toward the end of winter’s vegetables, we’re still making kale soup.

1 small bunch of kale, chopped (ours comes from the garden here)
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium onion diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 large can plum tomatoes, with their juice, chopped
4-6 cups of stock
Seasonings as desired (a little heat, salt and pepper, and some savory herbs.
I used about 4t of Penzeys' Northwoods seasoning)

Put it all in a crock pot and cook on low overnight.

P.S. The sourdough is a continuation of the starter I mentioned a week ago. It’s working much better now!

Midwestern locavores take note!

Baba goodness
Baba goodness

We have limited local foods here in Chicago unless we grow our own and/or the Farmer’s markets are in season.  Therefore when I find a local food product I get really excited.

I have been very pleased with Chef Earl’s products (which are made in Illinois), most especially their Baba Ghannouj.   I like that they are local and that they don’t use chemical preservatives.  Imagine how excited I was when I read that their containers are also compostable!  They are made from a plastic derived from corn starch.

For me…that’s some great food magic!

If you live in the Midwest and are looking for ethical eggplant (hummus, salsa and other things) you might want to give them a try.

YUM!

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

What's in my orange juice?

The more I read about the everyday foods I find in the grocery store, the more I’m surprised. Boston.com interviews Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed, and it turns out even simple “not from concentrate” orange juice is anything but:

In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn’t oxidize. Then it’s put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it’s ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.

New pictures, new authors

We have new pictures in the header! The new pictures show a little of our own “magical eating” practice: veggies from the garden and magical cooking/gardening books.

Also, new authors are coming onboard daily; you should see some new voices here soon.