One year ago, a sweet magical student of mine asked me to teach her to be a kitchen witch.
I thought I’d wait for y’all to stop snickering. First off, she needed her foundations and some discipline and it tweren’t time yet for digging into the the “major,” if you get my drift. In our tradition, there are no shortcuts, no accolades, no nepotistic fast shots to the top. And though she breaks my heart (all curls and honey drawl), I have waited for the day that she was ready to hone her magic in front of a stove. That day is almost nigh.
Now, I’ve read quite a lot about kitchen witchery on the “internets” of late; seems that the practice has grown in popularity alongside the commercialized food industry. There appears to be a wealth of books out and about that incorporate pre-crafted spells and recipes for the beginner kitchen witch. And I call: bullspit.  Y’all, let’s get real about this little slice of the Craft: it cannot be copied or imitated and only the guidelines can be taught. I reckon there will be a witchy outcry against this contention, but there it is. Floppin’ around like a catfish out of water. Those of us who were raised by true kitchen crafters know that, even with scratch and sniff, a book ain’t gonna hold your hand and vibrate those eggs. Nor will it lift energy, like a slow burn, under a beginner spell–even it if does rhyme. Naw, there is an olden method that cannot be obtained through literary osmosis. And even here, I cannot teach it.
But I can give you a whiff. Let’s talk poultry.
A proper kitchen witch NEVER buys chicken stock–lessen the in-laws are on their way in for a surprise visit, and even then . . . No sirree. I suppose not ‘ary one of y’all has a chicken coop out back, so the first critical step is to haul off to the local Piggly and buy a chicken. As organic and local as you possibly can, and then:
(We’ve had this conversation before, remember?) Get comfy. Find yor favorite cutoffs, bare those toes and sling that bra across the room (lessen you are of the nuttier variety, at which juncture I highly suggest free-ballin’.) Now. Turn up the music that speaks the food you want to create. Lynyrd Skynrd usually blasts around my barbecue ribs, while Nina Simone will show up for gumbo or stew. Ray LaMontaigne has injected my pork roast for Summer Sundays; Ray Charles enjoys wailing when pies are in store. Feel your way here. Hell, feel your way through the whole shebang! Hokay. Start with a clean work space, find a clear spot out of hand but in sight and light a candle. This is the moment to ground, *do that thing* and find your most base intent. Once focused, you are ready to begin. Some notes about cooking in general:
*Grow those herbs your-own-self. Nothing will every be as magical as entangling your magic into that of Mother Earth, seed to plate.
*ALWAYS taste the food, at EVERY stage. (Yup. This here is how Southern Witches ended up being just a might squishier than the rest of y’all.)
*If you imbibe, have ONE libation for sipping. (Careful here. This can get hairy–although I have had fun with this in the past. Shit gets real. Quick. NO CASTING ALLOWED.)
*If you are working with meat, remember to thank the beast for sustenance. This is critical to a healthy, kitchen witchery product.
*ALWAYS work with cast iron if at all possible. (I’ve thrown away all the others as they have been gifted unto me. They are quite useless and hold no memory. OR flavor.)
*Feel the beat in the chopping of that knife, sway in the turning of a spoon, and never forget that this is a sacred process–like alchemy. You are an organic part of that process.
*Keep negativity (arguing, begging dogs, telemarketers) OUT of that kitchen. Energy is absorbed by energy. Let’s not taint (hee hee) that grub.
*Iffin you are whipping up a family/beloved one’s recipe that has passed: honor them before and during the craft. You might be surprised to feel a grandma’s hand guiding yorn around a pot.
*Clean as you go. It keeps the method rolling, keeps you focused and gives magic a clear path to travel.
*Sing. (Music is vibration, vibration is energy, energy is magic. Aho.) Sing spells into the steam, across the blade of the knife, along the turn of the wooden spoon. But: make them your own. This is your magic, your body, your food and your spell. Let’s keep the quickie just-add-water variety spells out of our damn food.
*Never give up. Start over–or better yet? Invent something new. Be careful of chaos cooking, though. Nobody will ever ask for seconds of potato casserole with peanut butter and black olives. Respect the flavors. Partner them carefully, as you would in a spell packet. (More is not necessarily better, y’all.) Flavors should layer: heat in the back forty, salt around the edges, smatter of sweetness in the middle.
But here’s the real crux: waste nothing. (Magic, right? Let’s not leave half our spell process in the trash can.) A roasted chicken carcass is divine plopped in a stew pot alongside a few celery stalks, wilting carrots and that last onion. Simmer those bones! Milk that marrow! After an hour or two, that stock will be richer, thicker and healthier than store bought, all day every day. A serious kitchen witch wouldn’t stop here, y’all: after all, we have gardens to nourish and bones to bury. (Click here for some serious garden witchery.) I reckon those tomatoes ain’t gonna grow themselves. (Well, some of mine do. Uppity little wizard plants, I reckon.) What I can’t use? The chickens get. Herb stalks, pear skins, cornbread edges, all of it . . . and they spin those bits of kitchen magic into some damn fine and tasty eggs. Nom.
Why all the work? Because, Batchildren. A real kitchen witch knows when to push the crockpot and the microwave aside and get her digits deep in the dough. Sure, our backs ache and workdays go long and ‘ary now and again you’ll see us in the drive-thru, looking all cagey. But, laws, when there’s important work to get done . . .
Someone’s picking up a wooden spoon.
While the rest of our brethren have their digs, this is our craft. It cannot be learned by reading a book from Barnes and Noble. If you’ve been blessed, there was a grandma somewhere in your childhood spinning and bubbling in a backwoods kitchen, casting webs in the air, injecting eather with her sway, as if all her ancestors were orchestrating dinner from behind the veil. Because they do.
Be Nourished. Be Kitchen Witches. Be Blessed.
1. Yes. I have a book, all shimmery and shiny, ready to hit the shelves as soon as I feel ready to let go. And I STILL say: it won’t make you a kitchen witch. (But getting your fancy ass in that kitchen and putting in the sweat just might.)