Magic and Alchemy in the Kitchen

Magic and Alchemy in the Kitchen

I am an avid reader, fiction, non-fiction, magazines, leaflets even labels…if there’s writing on it I read it. One of the habits I have noticed recently in my reading is being drawn towards food writing. Not so strange you may say considering that is what you write about and work with, but you see it’s more than that.

The fiction I have been drawn to recently has been about the alchemy and magic of food preparation. Now this isn’t a new thing, hearth magic is something that fascinates me, I’m not talking witch stirring a cauldron type magic, or making food appear out of thin air whilst your broom sweeps the kitchen on it’s own. I’m talking about the magic that happens when you prepare food.

If you’re like me you love having the time to make a meal from scratch, you plan your meal, collect your ingredients and chop, sauté, roast, baste, boil and prepare them with a love of what you do and a vision of what the final dish will look like. My Mum always claims you can taste the love in anything prepared for you by another be it a sandwich or a cup of tea, I think she is right.

Food since ancient times has had a magical connection.  People left food as offerings to Gods, used food as protection for a new home or feasted to celebrate the changing seasons. Some of these traditions have continued today, how many of us have baked a Birthday cake to bring luck and love to the Birthday Guy or Gal?

It struck me that my bedtime reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris is openly about alchemy and magic in chocolate, it links Easter with earlier pagan rites and the heroine of the tale Vianne is very aware of the effect her food has on her customers.

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One of my other casual reads at the moment is Wicca in the Kitchen by Scott Cunningham, ooo Wicca isn’t that woowoo. Well it depends on your point of view, for me the fascination is learning about the ancient lore and rites surrounding certain food and also thinking more about the foods I choose to put in my body, if eating more wheat can attract more money I don’t mind giving it a whirl.

I am a great believer that our bodies tell us what we should be eating. That if we eat a healthy diet and listen to our bodies when we feel a little off balance, we can be lead to the mineral or vitamin we are lacking by our desire for certain foods. I say if you eat a healthy diet because believe me if you live on a diet of high fat high salt food that will be all your body will crave and you will be a long way from your body being able to tell you what you need to eat.

So before you dismiss the alchemy and magic of food just take a little time today to listen to what your body is saying, if you’re feeling a little low try a meal with bright colours tomatoes, sweet peppers, carrots, avocado I bet you have at least a little lift in spirits.

Another way food can lift the spirits or evoke vivid memories is through scent. This week I have been doing my training with Weleda and one of the important points raised was if someone dislikes the smell of a product, be the lead plant rose, almond, iris or pomegranate, then that product is not right for the person at this precise time. It is the same with food. Here’s a little test…Walk into your kitchen and open either the ground ginger or cinnamon jar, now what does that make you think of…I bet it’s Christmas and I bet a memory that makes you smile just popped into your head, that my dear is part of the alchemy and magic of food.

So just for today follow what your body tells you, what do you feel you need to eat? You may need to sit quietly away from the hustle and bustle of a busy work day but I bet you find something that scratches your itch, and just before you eat your chosen food take a deep breath and breathe in it’s scent, how does it make you feel? It’s worth a try, you never know you may learn something new about yourself.

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Diet, and the Health of a Nation

I read a heart rending story yesterday about a mother who has just discovered that the second of her twin boys is suffering from cancer. It made me ponder a lot of the things I have been reading recently and also made me a more than a little mad.

It may sound harsh but the News Reporters idea that this is an awful blow of fate got me thinking “Is it really Fate?”

We know that when we are born we all have genes some of which give us blue eyes or brown hair and some of which have the capability of giving us awful life threatening diseases. We also know that we must, in order to live a long and healthy life, eat well, live in a healthy environment and exercise at least moderately to make sure we keep our joints and muscles strong. So is this really “fate” that twins living in the same environment, eating the same foods and with the same genes both have developed the same cancer?

If you read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

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you learn that some of these genes are not triggered unless the right environment has been provided to stimulate them ie diet and environment. Have you ever thought about how our governments influence us to ensure that the economy is protected just a little more than the health of society? This has been shown in times of war when we were encouraged to grow our own food, fats and sugars were rationed and as a result our nation, in Britain were a little healthier.

Now look again at history when we have had surplus milk in the food supply, all of a sudden we have mass marketing campaigns showing us that milk is the only way to have strong bones and teeth. In times of surplus you can almost set your watch by the government research or report that tells us how good this food is for us and how we should be eating more. Our governments have subsidised farming for years so they get to influence what is grown, how much it costs and eventually what we are told is good for us.

Now the sad thing about the twins being so sick is that it is not their fault or their mothers fault. It isn’t even the governments fault for misinformation, it really boils down to years of misdirection, half learned truths and the lack of unbiased nutritional information taught to us through schools. The whole area of nutrition is filled with complicated skewed views on what is healthy. You only have to look at the masses of new diets published every day, most of them written by people who have a view to making money.

Whilst we as a nation focus on body image, skinniness and beauty over health we play right into their hands. We all know fast food is unhealthy but still we happily tuck into food full of fat because we are told we are deprived if we do not, these food are a sign of our affluence. I have come across too many young men who will go to the gym religiously whilst eat junk food until it comes out of their ears because they have been sold on the image that a healthy male has muscles and can bench press more than anyone else. I have also seen the young men who find that eating none stop does not bulk them up enough so drink protein shakes and end up resorting to injecting steroids into their bodies.

So is it fate that these teenage twin brothers have the same cancer? I think no. I think if you look at the factors environment, diet, genes then the chances of them not developing cancer were slim at best. When I read stories like this one my heart bleeds for the family but I also want to point them in the direction of people like Kris Carr who when diagnosed with a rare form of cancer did all the research she could, changed her lifestyle and diet and turned a negative on its head.

So instead of being lead by the glossy magazines and the terrifying news stories which are influenced by who is paying whom take your health by the horns, read about what is healthy, listen to your body when it tells you it really can’t handle that amount of fat and be the most informed you can about something that will determine how enjoyable, active and fulfilling your life is.

Domestic Goddesses Remember You Just Have to be Good Not Perfect

Cambridge Dictionary online Domestic Goddess  ” a woman who is very good at cooking and keeping her house clean and organized“. Well my house is clean when I am not working and slowly descends into chaos when I am at work. I can cook but I do tend to wear most of my ingredients on my t-shirts or dresses because I forget to put an apron on, so maybe I can be classified as one as it doesn’t say I have to be perfect just good at what I do and love.

When I watch those lovely household goddesses on t.v. or see them in the glossy magazines and they say how they would never buy stock as making it is far superior, and that they use whole not tinned tomatoes because who wants tinned food… WELL… I am here to tell you there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a tin of tomatoes or beans, frozen veg can save a tonne of cash if you find you run out of time before your veg has gone mouldy , and stock cubes are quick and easy and occasionally really tasty, so don’t feel bad if you are tired or time starved…remember you just have to be good not perfect.

But if like me a way to relax is cooking then here are a few tips and basic to help you make your own stock, or peel tomatoes or make the perfect rice

Vegetable Stock

Peel Tomatoes

Perfect Rice

Be sure to check back as this post will have more tips over the next few weeks

A Recommendation

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks as I have started a new job which is keeping me very busy and as a result e have been sticking to tried and tested easy meals in the evening.

Last night however we pushed the boat out and stopped for Tapas at a restaurant in Leicester called Las Iguanas. This is the email I sent them this morning

“Thank you for a great experience last night. We found your staff extremely helpful especially the blonde barman, didn’t get his name unfortunately. He did however go above and beyond in his customer service suggesting dishes I could eat as I am seriously allergic to dairy. It’s brilliant to find somewhere I can safely go for a meal or snack without having an allergic reaction to a hidden ingredient. Keep up the good work I will certainly be singing your praises to everyone.”

It is the first restaurant my husband took me to on our first date 4 years ago so it is lovely to know we can eat there safely. 

If you have a favourite restaurant then push a little and see if they can accommodate your allergies, you never know you maybe as wonderfully surprised as we were 

Dairy Free, Well what can you eat then??

 

ImageThis is the first question i am always asked when people find out I am dairy free, swiftly followed by so what happens when you eat it? So here goes the start of my explanation

I am a dairy free mum/wife in a dairy loving household, so how do I keep sane and manage to cook meals that my family do not turn their noses up at? It’s simple; over the 20 odd years that I have been dairy free I have learned to adapt recipes to suit my allergy and my fussy cheese loving families’ palates.

Now this is no mean task. Just wait until someone invites you to dinner and you tell them you are dairy free, watch the panic run across their face and then hear the usual questions like “Does that mean eggs too?” “Well what do you eat?”

After 20 years of adapting my food I sometimes fail to see how other people can’t get the dairy free idea. But then again if you say to someone you can anything you want to eat except “…..” you can guarantee that they will only be able to think about the food you have said they can’t have, not the myriad of alternatives.

Now my non-eating of dairy isn’t because I am a fussy eater, it’s not because of the animal welfare angle of it, although I am glad to be dairy free knowing what I know now about milk production. I am dairy free because I have a huge allergic reaction if I eat just a tiny amount.

My allergy started as cyst like boils in the muscles of my face and on my chest and back, but as I have aged it now has a full on tongue swelling and bleeding, throat closing up reaction in my body. So as you can imagine avoiding certain foods is now a must.

Now contrary to popular opinion dairy is milk, cheese, cream, curds, yogurt anything produced from  a cow/animals milk. It is not eggs. As far as I remember from biology cows do not produce eggs.

I have learned to read ingredients labels in the blink of an eye and spot nasties lurking in small quantities. It’s amazing how many low fat versions of food replace fat with milk proteins.

So what nasties should we be looking for? There are loads, but here a just a few things that sneak into products when you are least expecting them:-

Casein, Whey, Butter fat, Ghee, milk powder, lactose, caseinate, lactalbumin, hydrolysates, lactoglobulin, latulose, rennet, simplesse, curds.