Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Kimchi for Breakfast

I opened up this season's first quart of kimchi this morning. Kimchi for breakfast may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but it suits me just fine.

A couple of weeks back one of my covensibs gave me some lovely tender little baby turnips from her last farm share. (Yes, Virginia, witches really do eat babies.) I had some nice plump daikons over from the last farmer's market and a couple of stray parsnips at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Chop 'em up, mix 'em with green onion, grated ginger, a heaping tablespoon of cayenne, a little sugar, and more garlic than anyone should ever eat. Immerse in brine and let the fermentation begin. Sweet.

We didn't have our first frost until the night before Halloween this year. That's the latest freeze I can remember here. I'm still getting broccoli and collards from the garden—those cabbage vegetables just love cold—and the parsley's still holding on. With luck, they'll keep going till the ground freezes. But we're entering the season of pickles, and I say: bring it on.

Time was, if you wanted vegetables during the winter, you put them up during the summer or did without. When my mother was a girl, they'd buy a whole wagonload of cabbage every fall. One weekend afternoon the aunts and uncles and cousins would all come over and put up gallons and gallons of sauerkraut. I can remember seeing the slaw-slicer hanging up on the wall in my grandmother's basement. It looked like some sort of medieval torture device, and, I'm sure, drew its share of blood over the years. That's just one of the hazards of hand-grating anything. A little blood makes things sweeter, my grandmother used to say.

Here in the (soon-to-be) frozen North, food is the only real wealth. I've got enough fruit-sweetened applesauce in the freezer to see me through to March, if I use it judiciously. The winter squash and pumpkins sit with the bags of potatoes, onions, and jugs of cider on the back stairs. There are still five bottles of flavored vodka on the back porch—cherry, hot pepper, basil, garlic-dill, and saffron—but those I'm saving for Yule.( We drank up the other bottle of cherry at Harvest Home. Delicious.) The cherries I picked myself from a tree in the neighborhood whose owner couldn't be bothered, and was kind enough to let me have what I could pick. His loss, my gain.

Realistically, we're only going to see more of this as we go forward. As the desertification of the fruit- and vegetable-growing region of California's Central Valley continues and the rising price of gasoline makes long-distance shipping prohibitively expensive, we'll all be eating more preserved vegetables. Oh, there will be greenhouse belts around the big cities, just like there used to be before World War II, so we'll still be able to get our lettuce in January. But those fresh strawberries for Imbolc are going to cost you. We're still living in the Golden Age of cheap fresh food: let's enjoy it while it lasts. It certainly won't be forever: as pagans, we know this.

I don't know who got grandma's slaw-slicer, but I wish it had been me. As it is, I hand-chop things and have the luxury of savoring my homemade pickles as a special treat, not because there's no other option. I should be grateful for that, and indeed I am. And I do love my kimchi for breakfast.

More garlic than anyone should ever eat, though, so early in the day.

Candidly, you may not want to sit next to me on the train.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Kate Freeman
    Kate Freeman Thursday, 06 November 2014

    Looks delicious and sounds even better!

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Friday, 07 November 2014

    Get yourself a mandolin slicer. You'll love it.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 08 November 2014

    I'll take it as a mandate, Selina: thanks. (I was looking at some on-line just yesterday.) I remember grandma's slaw-slicer as having been, essentially, a mandolin on steroids. I wouldn't even have room for such a thing in my home.

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Saturday, 08 November 2014

    I have the OXO Goodgrips V-cut slicer. It's easy to clean, has a good selection of blades, and has held up well. And it folds up flat for storage! I make lots of fermented veggies with it.

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