Edible Book Report: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

I have been swimming in books.

Initiate year has been like being in school part-time, and with that comes lots and lots of books. Our Hive has a set of assigned titles that we all have to read and discuss through the years (the current one is… a bit of a slog), and in addition to that we have to complete an independent study of sorts, picked from a book list curated by current and former members of the CAYA clergy. I love this book list and all its diverse eclectic offerings– it was so hard to narrow down my choices! I will be returning to is over and over as I continue my studies, I’m sure.

The first book I picked was Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages and ages, so I was delighted to have a compelling reason to sit down with it. If you enjoy books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, this is definitely the book for you. Kingsolver’s memoir of sorts chronicles her family’s year-long experiment to only eat what they themselves could grow or buy from other local farmers, eating only what was in season or had been preserved from earlier harvests. It’s a celebration of getting back to working the earth, to getting back in touch with the cycles of growing things, and of being mindful of where our food comes from and the impact that has on the environment. It’s also packed with lots of beautiful recipes!

At times it comes across as being a little too self-congratulatory, especially in earlier chapters, but as the family starts to settle in to this experiment so does Kingsolver’s writing. It’s a fairly easy read, and gentle in most places; I read nearly the whole thing while on a trip to the East Coast last month, and it’s a perfect vacation read. There are lots of resources, both in the book and on the book’s website, for helping readers get started on their own food journeys; I particularly liked this website on urban gardening. It left me with a hunger for more involvement in how my food gets to my pantry, and a renewed interest in starting to grow some of my own food.

Knowing my own tendency to jump into projects head-first, I’m trying to start small; while my mother is an incredibly accomplished gardener, I… did not inherit her talents (by which I mean I kill succulents). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is packed full of recipes for all the growing seasons, and in particular a recipe for blackberry basil crumble caught my eye. I adore both of those things! Blackberries would be easy to forage, either from local wild spaces or from a kind friend or two, so knowing that I would want to make this dish for my beloved Hive at some point I bought a wee basil plant for my kitchen windowsill. As you can see, it didn’t stay wee for long:

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I’ve manage to keep my little green friend alive for nearly a month now, which I think might be a new record. I adore being able to grab a few leaves off it when I want a pop of something fresh and green, and the smell of fresh basil is one of my absolute most favorite scents in the world. If this continues to go well, I may even be brave enough to try growing something *gasp* outside.

And as for that crumble I mentioned, it was a huge hit. There were no leftovers, aside from some blackberry juice that got spilled on my passenger seat. I made a few modifications to the recipe, mostly due to the fact that I had to go gluten-free a few years ago; if you would like to try it for yourself, here you go!

Blackberry Basil Crumble (modified from Animal Vegetable Miracle’s recipe)

Filling
2-3 apples, chopped (I used a sweeter variety, to balance the tartness of the blackberries)
2 pints blackberries
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped
1/4 honey, to taste (you may want to add a little more, depending on the sweetness of your berries and apples)
To make this recipe vegan, swap out the honey for another sweetener. I think this would be marvelous with maple syrup, for example.

Crumble Topping
2 cups gluten-free oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
4tbsp cooking fat of your choice– I’ve made this topping with both butter and coconut oil, and both have worked beautifully

Preheat your oven to 400ºF (~205ºC). Combine the filling ingredients in an oven-proof casserole dish, mix, and set aside. In a separate bowl, add your topping ingredients and gently mix until a loose, crumbly mixture forms. Spread the topping on the fruit mixture, bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown and your whole house smells like summer.

As written, the recipe fed 8 hungry witches. We served it with big, gorgeous dollops of fresh whipped cream, and I suspect it would be phenomenal with really good vanilla ice cream too.

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In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

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Our Hands Remember

I’ve been thinking about my hands a lot.

The process of learning to sew has left my fingers stiff and aching, the skin at the edges of my thumb and index fingers (where my needle rests) raw and peeling. My hands don’t know these movements yet, and they ache with the pain of learning.

But they know other motions. They have other memories.

I’m a student of the martial arts. My knuckles are scarred and calloused from bag work and conditioning drills. My fingernails are trimmed short and filed down, with at most a new moon sliver of new growth. My right middle finger is slightly crooked from the time it got partially dislocated a few years ago.

I’m a dyer. The beds of my nails are still stained a faint blue from the indigo dyeing I did over Easter weekend. My skin is dry from repeated dunks into dye baths and mordanting solutions. I have dirt under my fingernails from foraging for dye materials, and from tending to my budding dye garden.

I’m a knitter. My hands know the motions of knit and purl as easily as I know how to draw breath. They are calloused and grooved from hours of knitting needles resting against my fingers, of wool slipping through them, of making warm things to keep those I love cozy.

I’m a kitchen witch. My hands always seem to smell faintly herbal, no matter how much I wash them. My wrists and my forearms are strong from chopping, mixing, kneading, lifting heavy roasting pans.

Our hobbies shape our hands. They tell our stories– of where we’ve been, what’s important to us, where we’re going.

Our hands remember.

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Rainy Day Magic

Puttering around in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday is one of life’s little pleasures.

A lazy brunch for my love and I, bacon and eggs and greens wilted in the bacon fat.

Grain-free almond cookies in the oven for Witch Class with my beloved Hive. Sweet and salty and chewy, perfect with a cup of tea.

My grandmother’s mixing bowls. A tea towel from my mother. A beautiful hard-bound cookbook bought with scraped-together college student funds. Tools and tips and skills passed from hand to hand in crowded, bustling kitchens full of love and laughter.

It’s warm and cozy in here, full of the smells of good food made with love for those I care most about.

Surely, this must be what magic feels like.

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