Saturday, June 22, 2013

Out of the Kitchen, To the Fire

In the spirit of broadening my cooking horizons, I decided this year to get in on some of the "summer" cooking that you can only do if you own a grill, so I bought a small (18") Weber charcoal kettle grill a couple of weeks ago.  There's a small part of me that feels a little weird about it, because the more things I read in order to learn to use this grill, the more I get the sense that outdoor grilling is very much considered a "guy thing"--to an extent I'm not sure I realized when I got the thing, although my sweetie had mentioned it as a concern that kept her from buying one for me as a gift.

Of course, I tend to think the "guy thing" business only applies if your household actually includes a guy, which mine doesn't.  At least, not unless you count our German Shepherd, Bodie, and I really don't think I'd trust him to cook anything properly.  And I have to say, any tiny niggling "weird feeling" is rapidly being chased away by the flavor of the food that has come off of my cute little grill so far.  

First, I christened it by making some cedar-planked Copper River salmon, which was absolutely to die for.  It was too rainy for outdoor cooking last weekend, but this weekend I made the entire "Farmer's Market Menu" from the July/August '12 issue of Food Network Magazine, including some brined pork chops off the grill, with a nice chutney.  I think they had to be the best pork chops I have ever had, and the meal really did make me realize that there is no substitute for the grill--you simply don't get that flavor any other way.  I'm already hoping the weather stays nice enough I can fire it back up tomorrow and make some flame-broiled burgers.

So I'm thinking, why should I bother feeling even the least bit weird about enjoying "men's" cooking?  I'm a kitchen witch, which means I like to cook.  Why would cooking with a charcoal fire be any different--or any less magical--than cooking in an oven or on a stovetop?  To me it feels more magical, more in touch with nature.  Besides, we witches have a long history of challenging the status quo of what is or isn't a "ladies' thing."

It would take some planning... but maybe one of these days I'll even have an opportunity to cook something outside under a Full Moon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Musings on Muses

I think every witch, and indeed, every Pagan, has their muses.  I think that often they take the form of the Gods or Goddesses that we revere--from Cerridwen and Morrighan and Oona of the Fey to Astarte to Isis, Ra, and Osiris.  Maybe it's not even restricted to Pagans; I mean, in today's time, isn't Jesus first and foremost an avatar of what we aspire to be like?

For myself, I do feel connected to the Celtic and British deities, especially the Fey, but then I think I have some other, less deified, muses that might be specific to the kitchen witch.  My first muse, even before I found the Pagan path, had to be Betty Crocker.  When I was first learning to be on my own and finding my place in the kitchen, my most prized possession was an antique copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook* that my mother gave me, unique among all my cookbooks in that it taught the basics I needed--how to boil eggs, how long to cook things like steaks, roasts, and turkeys, and so much more.  And so I accepted Betty as my muse, with the full understanding that she never actually walked the earth, and is merely a fictional character, created by the imaginations of people to be the perfect 'everywoman' who can unfailingly and unflappably work magic in the kitchen day after day.

Now that I have mastered all the basics, I may have at least partly outgrown what Betty Crocker and her sacred texts can show me (though I still consult the old red Cookbook from time to time).  The next leg of my journey, and my next set of muses, come from the pages of Food Network Magazine.**  I consistently find the recipes in this magazine, especially the ones from the "Weeknight Cooking" section, to be some of the most well-balanced and delicious dishes I have ever experienced, let alone created.  Just tonight, I made some Turkey-Pepperoni Burgers that my sweetie told me had the best flavor of anything she had ever eaten. And while the muses of Food Network differ from Lady Crocker in that they are based on real people, who live and breathe even today, they are also the same in that the images we receive are edited and shaped to transform these everyday people--from Ina Garten, Giada DeLaurentis, and Paula Deen to Bobby Flay and Alton Brown--into unfailing, unflappable avatars of what all of us kitchen folk aspire to be.

I have to wonder, then... could these fictional, or semi-fictional, characters be a type of modern-day mythology, not so far removed from those ancient stories of gods and goddesses, larger-than-life heroes or heroines meant to inspire us to greater things?

*Copyright date 1969!  Not that long before I was born, but still clearly from an earlier, simpler time.

**I am not affiliated with Food Network in any way, and sadly am receiving no compensation for my endorsement.