Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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The Joy of Cooking

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tellus1.jpgThere is a cookbook titled The Joy of Cooking. It was the go-to book in my mom’s household when I was growing up. Don’t know how to make something? Go look in the book. It had everything from how to cook nearly any kind of meat, [I believe I recall frog legs!] vegetables, pastry, desserts, aspic and an assortment of other things. When I moved out, mom gave me my own copy, and at my request, she gave me another when I got married many years later.

I’m not sure how much she actually felt joy about cooking. She’s an artist and has ADD, and cooking is not one of the things that grabs her attention. In fact, she can find it difficult to remember to eat, with the exception of sweet baked goods. Such was my introduction to cooking. Ie. I learned how to make cookies and bake bread, but had to teach myself to make a pot of soup. I don’t blame her for this lack. She did make food everyday, and if it wasn’t fancy, it was nourishing and I did eat some things that scared my friends: sea food was a regular at our dinner table in Pennsylvania, as was calf’s liver. But she didn’t teach me to cook any of it myself. I don’t think she had the energy, as a single mom, she wanted far more help from me than she got, and she didn’t have the will to fight with me once I hit my teens.

I mostly taught myself to cook, and I’m afraid my attitude about food was the one I had learned from my mother for many years. I had a couple things I could cook well, but I would have stretches of time where I lived on pasta or cheese and tomato sandwiches because I just couldn’t be bothered.

Now, I experience cooking as sacred.

It didn’t just magically happen, it was a conscious choice in the midst of a difficult time. Cooking was part of my misery; a job that HAD to be done without fail, was at the outer edges of my skill set, and for which I got little or no appreciation. Mom was no help. “Oh honey, everyone hates housework!” was not what I needed to hear right then! I had already spent far too much time in depression for that to be ok. So I went looking for other role models.

There are goddesses that are revered for caring for the hearth. The first I encountered was Frig, and while I didn’t form a relationship with her, I do honor her for being my first role model. Ceres is another. As I continued to define caring for the hearth for myself, I found myself including cleaning and gardening. The former was even more challenging than cooking, and the latter a joy, and source of connection. Because of that, I sought out an earth goddess to support my hearth keeping.

Tellus is the Roman equivalent of Gaia. She was associated with both Cybele, the Phrygian earth goddess, and Ceres, goddess of the grain. Her festival was the Foridica celebrated on April 15, and at that time, she was offered a pregnant cow as a sacrifice. The unborn calf was burnt and the ashes used for purification in the festival of Parilia, dedicated to Pales, deity of shepherds. In January, she shared a festival with Ceres, where they was offered spelt wheat, and a pregnant sow. In Bullfinch’s Mythology, she is invoked by the sorceress Medea because of her power to produce plants ‘potent for enchantment.’

I evoke her as Lady of the Cultivated Fields, caretaker of the vital soil, Provider of food for body and soul. I ask for her help in changing our current unsustainable food production system to one that will both last for generations and feed humanity well. And I offer my daily labors as a sacrifice. So when I feel cranky about the work, I can still believe it has value.

Now when I cook, I feel her grace. My gardens have grown and the food I produce is a regular part of what we eat. I think about how what I make will nourish me and my husband. The scraps go in the compost bucket to be returned to the soil. Even the bones get boiled to make broth and eventually treated to be returned to the soil as well.* Being aware of how each action, each element feeds the next lifts me out of my mundane space and connects me with the goddess. And cooking becomes a joy.

*Yes, bones and flesh CAN be composted, just NOT with the regular compost!

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Tagged in: Cooking hearth
Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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