A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook
by Patricia Telesco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Kitchen Witch's Cookbook / 1-56718-707-2
This is a very eclectic source and, true to Telesco's usual style, aims to be a "lowest common denominator" book that will appeal to as many people as possible. As such, the recipes presented here are not "new" wiccan-themed dishes but rather regional dishes from around the world, with their "magical significance" penciled in. Nor is the "magical significance" limited to wiccan and pagan traditions - Telesco frequently notes dishes as being sacred to Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist cuisine. I suppose publishing is a business and we can't blame anyone for trying to make a buck, but it is a bit irritating to read about olives being sacred to the Judeo-Christian Noah... as opposed to the more obvious "witchy" choice of Athena, especially when this is a book ostensibly being marketed towards wiccans, not Christians.
As a further attempt to be all things to all people, this book is neither vegan nor vegetarian, as there are quite a few recipes involving meat, creams, and cheeses. However, there is a whole section on tofu and another for rice, so there's an awful lot of choices available throughout the recipes. I think this is a nice compromise for everyone involved and no one gets left out or has to go hungry.
For the recipes themselves, each recipe is lavishly laid out with an explanation of the history of the dish, the country of origin, the associated holidays, sacred symbols, and religion or god/dess(es), as well as suggested variations which could promote different intents. In the face of all this wonderful detail, I do find that I am again faced with the absolute hardest part of being a wiccan in the USA: lack of European ingredients! With one recipe calling for "1 whole pig (about 14 pounds)" and dozens more calling for the addition of flower petals I've never even heard of, this cookbook may be very daunting to people who don't have access to a local butcher or gardener. I'm not certain I'd try the flower recipes anyway, as Telesco offhandedly points out that "some" of the flowers of certain varieties of plants are quite poisonous, while others are not... but with no indication of how to tell which are safe and which are not.
I guess as a bottom line, I got some enjoyment out of this cookbook. We're all pretty picky eaters in my family and we tend to stick to the tried-and-true, so a lot of the more exotic recipes were fun to read about but I probably wouldn't actually make. I did glean at least 10-20 new recipes that I enjoy and, really, that's about the best I hope for with a cookbook. As a spiritual guide, I don't know how practical it is - admonitions to make "every meal magical" and to avoid cooking when tired or irritable because negative magic will slip in fail to consider my own busy lifestyle and the fact that if food doesn't get on the table because I couldn't slip into a serene-enough state of mind, then family will either go hungry or order delivery. And while the total immersion into a magic lifestyle is tempting, I expect that the modern witch will end up being disappointed and frustrated at the inevitable failure to serve every meal by candlelight with the TV turned off and the radio silenced. I would suggest buying this book for the recipes, taking some of the philosophy as a nice goal (but not a realistic destination), and enjoying the results and not worrying about the failures.
~ Ana Mardoll
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