So. You bought that book on Kitchen Witchery?

cauldron

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.

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Alabama tamales and Fried Greens.

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. [1]  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.

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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.)

Yule 2010 (AFTER cooking!)

Yule 2010 (AFTER cooking!)

*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.

My sister calls these "sexy eggs."  I take the Fifth.

My sister calls these “sexy eggs.” I take the Fifth.

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.

Seba

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Double dark chocolate pie. Nobody said homemade was picture perfect. But damn, y’all should have see my menfolk’s eyes roll back in their heads.

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.)

About Southern Fried Witch

Deep-fried magic tastes better with ranch dressing.
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59 Responses to So. You bought that book on Kitchen Witchery?

  1. msfitznham says:

    I love you. I just absolutely love you!

    I was so down thanks to some backwash from a post of my own and this was the breath of life and air I needed at the moment I needed it most.

    Thank you! ❤

  2. Alice Mae Lewis says:

    LOVE this! You’ve captured the spirit (apologies for the pun) of kitchen magick! Yes! cast iron, wood spoons (rolling pins too), Ancestors peeking over my shoulder and hens on bug patrol under the mulberry trees! What a grand way to live and love. Thank you so much for this post! Gave me smiles aplenty.

  3. slystephy says:

    You are so spot on!!!! Iron skillets release the best flavor, the fingers in the dough, flour on the counter tops, steaming pots, chickens in the yard, cows and hogs in the pasture, the garden in bloom, Sunday dinner at noon, and to lick the wooden spoon once it has mixed the cake batter in an old crock bowl. This was my Great Aunt Irene’s kitchen and the magic filled the air!!!! My Great Uncle Lee always kept a pint around for sippin’ till dinner time!!!! Oh how I miss those days, but now I create my own magic in my own kitchen, somehow it isn’t the same! Thank you for stirring those happy memories for me!!!

  4. Melanie says:

    I just love it when you talk about cooking and food! I always send these posts to my foodie friends.
    Ancestors, yes. We must pass down the kitchen wisdom.

  5. chefette13 says:

    I’m waiting for you to release the book…I have money in my hot little hand…come on Mama let ‘er fly!! Can’t wait to read it!!

  6. Cyn says:

    Glad to see you teaching. I quit FB, get in touch with me.

  7. Charlotte Undery says:

    The hubster calls me his ‘insta-witch’ (0-witch in 2 seconds if someone peeves me off or there’s things needing doing) and I and my ever-widening waistline can attest to his ability as a kitchen witch, even if he thinks he’s more shamanic/druidic/something high-falutin’ that gives me crossed eyes! His heart, his love, go into each dish he prepares, and now that we’re sharing a home with my Mum, she’s seeing it too. Even the simple things like potato mash with grilled pork chops get the “treatment”. And the food is satisfying, tasty and I wish we’d left some for leftovers for the following day! Added to that, he loves to cook. He used to be a dessert chef. You see why my waistline is ever-expanding?!

    And it’s true, it’s not something you can learn from a book. Oh, the ingredients, the basics can be, but the finishing touches and twitches, that’s pure heart and soul. His Mum didn’t teach her boys to cook, but he watched his Grandma. And that lovely lady…she could cook. And would feed anyone that showed up at her door. I always offer thanks to her spirit for the gift that is her grandson and his way with food and plants.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates with the buckets of fruit that will be harvestable in the coming 18 months, after all his hard work clearing the garden and freeing the trees…

    • My friend across the globe: how awesome! My hubby can’t boil water, lol, but he crafts the most amazing things out of “found” wood and pallets. Not enough props go to our menfolk who turn the spoon. Sounds like he expands hearts as well as waistlines! 🙂

  8. Lee says:

    Absolutely brilliant!

  9. Tess Muin says:

    this is awesome! so glad I stopped long enuf to read it! so very true you cannot learn in a book what we do!

  10. Irene Garner says:

    Funny, I asked my Son if I should get a stainless steel skillet or a cast iron one. He looked at me and said: you are definitely a cast iron person! Love this post. Thank you.

  11. christy sullivan says:

    seba, it’s been so good to read this. it brought back the memory of my great grandmothers pie safe and store room being empty, and her turning around 3 times in the kitchen and putting a feast on the table. by the way, I’m looking forward to your next WDE post. I’m just over the moon with football joy this year, of course, I’ve loved the tigers since I was 14 and watched a whole game, and there’s been some great years in the past too, but this year just feels different.

    • I think lots of folks are missing the lesson built into this year’s football, but not you and I. Something like: “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” or “watch out for the underdog when the gods of war have blessed them” or some such. Love ya, Christy!

  12. feolankvothe says:

    This blogpost just came up on my dashboard and I just want to say that I got a bit emotional while reading. And I thank you for that because it was the happy kind of emotional. 🙂
    I love how you discribed being a Kitchen Witch.
    With kind greetings, Graham

  13. Margaret says:

    Found your page via a link one of my friends on FB posted. Everything you said sums up my feelings about kitchen witchery (and cooking and life in general). Awesome post and awesome site! ❤ My girlfriend is from Pennsylvania (North Carolina born and bred myself), and we had a full discussion in which she couldn't get why I maintain that a cast iron skillet is the ONLY proper pan to make cornbread in. Her: does the pan REALLY make any difference? Me: HELL YES it does!

  14. Pingback: So. You Bought that Book on Kitchen Witchery? « WiccanWeb

  15. All I can add to this lovely post–besides the cry to please please let that literary baby of yours loose into the world–is this. Picture: pie day at culinary school. Chef Instructor N. demonstrating how to make crust in a honking big Kitchen Aid. Takes all the energy you’ve got just to get the darn thing off the storage shelf and haul it to a work station. No way. I filled a big bowl with ice and set into it a slightly smaller one with Flour, salt, and some cold cold butter. A sprinkle of icy water. Two butter knives to cut it together. Gently. With dignity. Chef looked at me like I was nuts. But a KITCHEN AID pie crust??? Who wants Dutch Apple filling in a cardboard bowl? Because that was the best he was getting out of his process. I don’t care whose five-star kitchen he trained in. Not what I paid tuition for. And not the last time Chef N. wondered what the hell had walked into his classroom.

  16. Debra Nehring says:

    Love this! Love you! I’m a Northern Gal kitchen witch, coming from a long line of ( unbeknownst to them) kitchen witches, who, just by passing on their knowledge and love of food, gave the greatest gift to me they could have given.Right now I live in Northern Canada, but have my beautiful garden to tap into in the summer, and hope to head south this year to another acreage where my chickies,piggies, and goat will live happily ever after.
    Get that book out!
    Deb

  17. margie says:

    My grandparents have long passed…and how I miss them more and more each day. I had a set of rich ones and a set of poor ones…and yes my visits and summer vacations were spent with the poor ones, outhouse, well, and all. We would take baths in a tub outside and slide in the mud in the summers. And it was heaven!
    On holidays there was a big feast, left on the table all day with a tablecloth over it, so you could nibble all day. I can still tell you what everybody brought on those days. And this is after 20 years! I had a cousin (the richest one no less) who got all the cousins together for a family get together last year. She said that since we all had such busy lives we could all send her $20 dollars to her and she would have sandwiches catered. I could feel my grandmothers rolling in their graves as I read that. I sorry, I was bad, I told her to go to hell, that wasn’t a family event it was a business meeting. I of course did not go. I am a 51 year old woman with a full time job as a cashier as walgreens and I have a 6 year old son, and even I could have found time to cook something. I do believe it is time to start making traditions for my family. Along with my 6 year old, I have a 29 y.o. son and a 23 y.o. son, their girlfriends, and my husbands three sons. I am ashamed to say it has taken me this long to figure it out.
    Your letter helped me to see that I needed to get out my grandparents iron pots and pans, and start cooking. I think I will feel my grandmothers there with me all the way.
    Thank you for reminding me…..
    With a tear in my eye for the happy memories,
    Margie

    • I want you to know that every time I think of closing down, someone like you says something this amazing and I stay. So. Thank YOU for reminding me that I’m not alone, not the only one who thinks like this. Much love to you. Seba

  18. christy says:

    closing down? how could you even think of it? oh seba, your words are like aunt pearl’s biscuits.

  19. Melanie says:

    Margie’s memories are so touching. Okay – being selfish here. I can’t imagine a day with no anticipation of another SFW post. Although, I know you will do what you must, when you must, and that will be okay. But what a loss!

  20. I finished reading this post, and before commenting I went to the kitchen to my caldero and smile at it. It didn’t smiled back, but I stuck my head in it and although I washed it well, it still smells of the yellow plantain and cinnamon I boiled last night. I love my cauldron–it cooks the best rice, as every Dominican will tell you. And it holds memories, and meaning, from all the way back when my dad bought it for me (when I got to my first duty station, in 1998) to today. I wouldn’t change my caldero for anyone’s idea of the perfect pot.

  21. I just shared this blog post on the Facebook feed for Witches&Pagans. https://www.facebook.com/WitchesandPagans. Brilliant. (This kind of writing is so rare and so wonderful. Any time you are interested in writing for my magazines — W&P, SageWoman, Crone — or a spot on the blogosphere at PaganSquare.com, just let me know!) Anne Newkirk Niven

  22. william farwell says:

    been making majik in the kitchen for 38 years or more,,,Restaurants and bars also..we’ll see what you have,,,looks interestin tho to chat the least….the chocolate cooking is the part i’ll peruse the most..i whip up a potion that makes the head spin and mouth want to keep cawin after the grubs gone….be looking for the book soonest…have anice day!

  23. Redhairedwitch says:

    ALL of this! I have spent all of my adult years (and some of those teen years, too) cooking for my family with witchery. I will add only one thing: not only thank the animal for it’s sacrifice, but be sure to only use meat that has been humanely harvested by a farmer that cares, not a slaughterhouse. Meat absorbs the fear and adrenaline that an animal feels. They shouldn’t see it coming. My kids were mostly raised on venison hunted by my husband and his brothers, and meat from a family farm. You can taste and feel the difference. Thanks for the entertaining article!

  24. Oh, my! I LOVE your blog! I’ve been looking for you! I came across ya on Facebook via a link by a dear Facebook friend. I agree whole heartedly regarding the Kitchen Witchery. Cast iron all the way! Now that I found you……I can’t wait for new posts and reading up your past entries. Oh, and yes…..book, please!

    Eva
    .

  25. Dan says:

    I even go so far as to only buy antique cast iron skillets and pots. They have to have been loved or they don’t know how to love back. New cast iron just isn’t the same…

  26. Terri says:

    Oh my gosh I love your post! Spotted from Facebook and I must say you’ve made me realize I’ve always had a little Kitchen Witch in me. I have always done just about everything you posted (minus the chicken coop due to moving a lot). Thank you for opening my eyes! You are awesome

  27. I just found your site ……also from fb………..and really connected with it………….I have always cooked with cast iron…..and i have a 12-inch cast iron skillet that was given to me by my ex-mother-in-law……she knew i would take care of it………it was her mothers……..it is around 100yrs old and is still my favorite to cook with……one of my cherished possessions……….always use my wooden spoons as well………..I have cooked with my 6yr. old g-son since he was born and he loves it………that is one of the first things he wants to do when he gets to my house…….will for sure be visiting your site often…….

  28. aprilrayne says:

    Reblogged this on Pagan at Heart and commented:
    I love Southern Fried Witch. 🙂

  29. Wonderful post! Couldn’t agree more about both the cast iron and getting food from your own land. Thank you. 🙂

  30. 1) I love the way you type, I can hear your southern drawl through it, it’s awesome.
    2) Do you think it’s possible to naturally become a kitchen witch without guidance? I feel like I already do most of these things. I’ve always been interested in kitchen witchery, but I never knew what it entailed. This is just how I cook.

  31. Riezen says:

    Just found your site, as I am usually outside foraging, hanging out or in my kitchen brewing up something. Refreshing. I have come to believe there are no traditions of being a Witch. It has more to do with roots, locale. All the neopagan books just left a big hole. I never seemed to fit in any mold but then again Witches never do.

    Enjoy your writings very much from the red clay dirt in Carolina!

  32. Coco says:

    I just love this! You remind me so much of my Grammy. To this day her kitchen is the center of family gatherings, and event planning. Can usually find her out diggin round her garden, or greenhouse, or in her kitchen whippin up homemade goodies. She’s a kitchen witch and recently my momma, who is also a witch (of dream magic) has been tellin me I’m a kitchen witch too. Love to cook and make everything from scratch and usually have pretty good luck creating my own recipes and “feeling” what the food needs! Im just discovering all the magic in my kitchen and aspire to grow into a woman like you and my Grammy!

  33. Amber French says:

    Tell it Mama! 💕❤💕
    Thanks for spitting the truth.
    Loves and where is the book?
    I need my sisters voice chatting through my head reminding her me what the time is?
    Do you do accountability assistant work as well! Lol.
    Loves and blessings.

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