Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review: Kitchen Witchery by Laurel Woodward

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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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