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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Witches' Christmas

They call it "Jewish Christmas": Chinese food and a movie.

I suppose, then, that Witches' Christmas would be Indian food and a movie.

I don't know what it is about witches and Indian, but there sure does seem to be something. No doubt there are individual Jews who don't do Chinese (overexposure as children, probably), and doubtless there are witches out there who don't relish alu gobi.

But bring some palak panir to your next coven potluck and then tell me I'm wrong.

The sheer exoticism? The inherent complexity? A sense of gustatory affinity with a kindred culture?


Maybe it's to do with the Craft's British origins. Maybe that's what gives witches the taste for what is (let's just be frank and admit it) the British national cuisine.

After all, it took Britain to make Indian food “Indian.” Before that there was Maharashtran food, Bengali food, Parsi food: the thousands of different regional and ethnic cuisines of the Subcontinent. These may share ingredients, seasonings, and preparations, sure. But it took the leveling influence of colonialism to create an all-India cuisine.

Add to that a, shall we say, undistinguished national cuisine back Home and voilà. A town too small to have Indian take-away must be a very small town indeed. Britain may have conquered the Subcontinent, but Curry has conquered the Archipelago.

All this by way of introduction. I love Indian food and have been cooking it for nearly 40 years. Although this isn't a food blog (I invite those of you interested in the theory and practice of Witch cookery to check out The Prodea Cookbook: Good Food and Tradition from Paganistan's Oldest Coven), I do want to pass along a recent discovery: a stellar little North Indian peanut salad that's fresh, light, and just the thing to perk up a winter meal. And may Mike Howard (who hates seeing recipes in witch blogs) forgive me.

The recipe contains two special ingredients for which there is, alas, no substitution. Amchur is the tangy powder of dried green mango. Chat massala is a finishing spice compounded from various different ingredients. You can find recipes on the web, or buy it pre-made at your nearest Little Bombay grocery.


North Indian Peanut Salad


1 cup raw peanuts, skinned 

1 roma tomato, chopped

3-4 scallions, chopped (or ½ small red onion, minced)

½ cup cilantro leaves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon amchur (dried mango) powder

1 teaspoon chat massala


Dry-roast the peanuts in an ungreased frying pan, stirring constantly, until they're golden (5-7 minutes). They scorch easily, so be careful.

Turn the roasted peanuts out into a bowl and let them cool. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and serve immediately.

Does not keep, so you might as well eat the whole thing at one go.


 For Doc Parker, next door

Last modified on
Tagged in: Cooking Recipes
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.


  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson Saturday, 24 January 2015

    Where do you do your shopping for ingredients? I live in Minneapolis...and would appreciate the "hook-up"..not wanting to "run all over town."
    ps ~ recipe looks like it would be tastey

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 24 January 2015

    My favorite Indian grocery in town is Little India on Central Avenue. They have everything.

    Miles, any chance you're going to be at Paganicon this March?

  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson Saturday, 24 January 2015

    I am hoping to wrangle the $$...Is Little that Jerusalem "complex"?...U going to Paganicon?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 25 January 2015

    1835 Central Ave NE. If you mean the "Holy Land" bakery/deli/butcher's/ grocery, yes, that's it. Best Middle Eastern grocery in town cheek-by-jowl with the best Indian grocery. Gotta love it.

    Sounds like I'll be doing a reading at P-con this year. If you're there, collar me.

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