Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review: Kitchen Witchery by Laurel Woodward

book review, pagan, neopagan, witchcraft, witchy, book, witch life, kitchen witchery, kitchen witchcraft, food magick, food magic, cottage magic, cottage witchcraft, cottage witchery

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
As we move into Fall, I find myself more inclined to cook at home. Georgia heat makes it difficult to want to cook, let alone eat in the first place unless, of course, it's some cool, crisp watermelon while you lounge in the pool or a juicy tomato sandwich with a thick layer of mayo and pepper. When I was asked if I would like to review Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward, I jumped on the opportunity to expand my kitchen witchery skills just in time for Fall!

Kitchen Witchery is outlined like a correspondence book with chapters on different food groups, including vegetables, fruits, spices, drinks, wheat, and even gluten-free options. Woodward's book flows easily from one chapter to the next, outlining the correspondences, brief history, and even some nutritional information about each food item. I loved what an easy reference this book is, making putting together the perfect recipe for your desired intention quick and simple. Furthermore, Woodward includes all of her references throughout the book, each one annotated beautifully at the bottom of the page where the source is used. I cannot express how much I love this. Having the source cited right where it is used makes it so easy for me to fact-check and cross-reference any new information I come across, without having to try and dig through the bibliography at the end of the book. I am excited that more and more authors and publishers are following this design. In the age of misinformation, citing your sources is invaluable to lending credibility!

Within each chapter, Woodward includes recipes and ways to use different food items in your magical practice. The recipes were delightful, and very few contained meat, so if you are vegetarian, you have lots of options. If you are vegan, like me, you will have to get a little creative, but we are used to that, now aren't we? As I mentioned above, there is an entire section dedicated to gluten-free grains and recipes. This, on top of the abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, makes the text extremely accessible to all people, no matter their dietary needs. Some of the recipes are outlined under the food's correspondences, while others are outlined in a designated section within the chapter. This can make some referencing difficult, but the index is comprehensive which will help resolve this issue. Furthermore, there are a number of spells and rituals throughout the book that incorporate food that are not edible. For example, there are recipes to make black salt, anointing oils, cascarilla powder, and even some bath recipes. I really enjoyed the mix of edible and nonedible spells throughout the book, as kitchen witchery is so much more than eating.

The beginning of the book covers some basics of witchcraft, including the moon phases, grounding, and meditation, while the last chapter includes a breakdown of the eight sabbats and recipes for each of the seasons. These sections were a great refresher and Woodward's section on the moon phases offered some new insight I can use in my own practice. However, Woodward does promote the myth that crime and hysteria increase during the Full Moon. There is zero scientific evidence to support this claim, so I really wish we would stop perpetuating it as a community.

Despite how much I loved the majority of the book, there is some serious food shaming throughout. It is most notable in the very first chapter, and I had to put the book down and go for a run to release some of my anger. Lately, I have noticed a growing number of witches discussing how the witch community hates poor people, and this is a prime example of witchcraft hating poor people. First, Woodward states that the best ingredients are those that are organic and touts that non-organic food simply isn't magical enough. This idea completely disregards that 1) organic food is outrageously expensive and 2) that food deserts exist all over the world. This means that organic food is simply not accessible to the majority of the world, nor is it really sustainable. The fact that she can afford to feed her family all organic is a privilege, one many people do not have. There is magically no difference between a conventionally grown apple and an organic apple, at least in my experience. Furthermore, Woodward knocks canned goods on the grounds that they contain BPA. Only about 10% of canned goods worldwide still contain BPA. We have moved away from its use due to it being found hazardous to our health. Canned foods are canned at the peak of freshness, meaning that they will contain more nutrients than those obtained out of season. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using canned goods; the food is just as magical as fresh. The idea that everything needs to be fresh is another sign of privilege: the privilege to have the time to make everything from scratch. As an extremely busy person with severe anxiety and depression, the least of my worries when feeding myself is whether or not I make it fresh, from scratch. The goal is to feed me. We need to have a serious conversation about low-energy, budget-friendly, kitchen witchcraft, using the resources and time that we have, instead of food shaming and hating on the poor, disabled, and mentally ill people. The last thing I would like to address is the idea that organically raised cows are happier than conventionally raised cows. Organic does not mean free-range, and even free-range simply means they are not kept in a cage. All organic means is that the cows are fed a diet that is organic. Woodward also claims organically-fed cows are not given antibiotics. This is untrue. If a cow, or any livestock for that matter, becomes ill with a bacterial infection, they will receive vet care and be given antibiotics. However, the laws in almost every industrialized country state that any animal given antibiotics cannot go to market until the antibiotics are out of its system. This means the milk from a cow on antibiotics does not go to market but is instead thrown out. This is true of all livestock. You see chicken in the store that says "No antibiotics!" This is a marketing tactic. None of the chicken in the store in the US can legally contain antibiotics, and the same goes for our milk. It's disheartening to see this misinformation continuing to be spread, especially in 2021. Most of the food shaming and privilege is easily avoidable by disregarding the first chapter and ignoring it in the proceeding chapters. However, the parts where Woodward forgets her audience isn't entirely heterosexual women are harder to ignore. I encourage you not to let Woodward's opinions get in the way of you creating some truly magical recipes in your kitchen, however.

Despite my dislikes, this is one of the most comprehensive kitchen witchery books on the market. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in adding some magic to their kitchen or those looking to expand their kitchen witchery beyond the basics. Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward is an excellent correspondence book, one that I will return to time and time again as I add some own magic to my kitchen. Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward is available now wherever books are sold. 

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  1. Thanks for this comprehensive review! I love kitchen witchery and love learning more about it, but I think I'd seriously question the author's authority and expertise given her gross misstatements about the very ingredients she's working with. You're absolutely right about organic, free-range, cage-free, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and grass-finished all being very different things (in grad school we studied a lot of the marketing around each of these, which always sells the image of a family-owned small farm where the animals' welfare is prioritized, the land is healthy, and all practices are humane- even though none of those expensive certifications mean that).

    As someone with a disability and two full-time jobs, I'm also a fan of low-energy and quick meals (which can be just as magical!). I wish there was a book or two out there focusing on that fundamental of 'being a kitchen witch when you're also exhausted'. :D

    1. The bias and food shaming was infuriating, especially considering agricultural practices are something I teach as an environmental science teacher and as a vegan, something I am very passionate about. I teach my students about product labeling and how the entire capitalist system is designed to trick them into buying something more expensive, something they don't need, or something unsafe under the disguise that you need it and its good for you. I also teach my students about confirmation biased, and when you go looking for something that specifically supports your opinion, your bound to find something. It doesn't mean that something is good or that there isn't loads of other evidence to discredit it. I felt there was some serious confirmation biased at the beginning of this book. Most of it is avoidable skipping the first chapter and focusing on the recipes and correspondence lists. And I agree, I wish there were more witchcraft books in general about low-energy witchcraft. Maybe I should start writing posts about it myself, because that's how I practice. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Thank you very much for this excellent, comprehensive review and for raising the red flag regarding those points that did not sit right with you (they don't jive for me either) about this title.

    I'm all in favour of buying the best quality food one can realistically manage and strive to do so on a very fixed budget myself. A great deal of us cannot even entertain the notion of all organic/grass-fed/pasture raised/artesian/etc diet, however, and in no way deserve to be looked down upon or shamed because of that fact. The cost of living in many parts of the world is unsustainably expensive as is these days and the situation is getting worse, not better, over all. If one is able to afford enough food to keep from going hungry, they're already doing well in my books and should be encouraged to weave kitchen witchery with whatever is within their means. Not the Whole Foods version of our craft, but the salt of the earth (pun mildly intended, sentiment no less serious) version that focuses as much, if not more, on intent, manifestation, and so forth as the ingredients/products used in a given working.

    As always, I sincerely appreciate and enjoy your book reviews, Willow, and adore that you call things like they are.

    Autumn Zenith 🎃 Witchcrafted Life

    1. I completely agree, Autumn. More and more I see just how blatantly modern day witchcraft hates poor people. And here's the thing, its not all forms of witchcraft, just white woman witchcraft. I see this scenario often: "Oh my gosh, my crystal broke what does it mean? Oh it means the crystal did its job and is no longer useful so you need to get another one." Umm...what?! No! Now you have two crystals for the price of one! Cleanse that baby, recharge it, and work some more magic! Don't have some expensive ingredient, so what! Substitute it for something you do have. Don't have a fancy altar space. No one cares. Set it up on your nightstand or bookshelf with stuff you collected from outside and some candles from the dollar store and you're good to go. Can't afford alcohol or tobacco for offerings? Offer water! Can't afford organic food? Use the food from the dollar store. I really should write a post on this addressing the issue and how racism and classism are serious issues in this line of thinking.

      I appreciate that you enjoy my book reviews. With so many out on the market, its important that we spend out money wisely. With so much misinformation floating around, its important that we read with a critical eye. I really hope these reviews help people make educated decisions, and give them an idea of what to look out for in other books I haven't reviewed.

      I hope you have a fantastic Autumn, Autumn!


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