My grandmother would wake up before everyone in the house to take long aromatic baths that left the house smelling like a bouquet of flowers. She would then float around in her gown doing one thing or another. It wasn’t until I was older did I realized that she was performing a morning ritual that was preparation for her day’s work.
My grandmother once owned a candle shop, among many other ventures, called Wickies. I knew that she practiced magic. She was paid to perform and prepare spells. But it wasn’t something that we really talked about. It was just known. When she did speak of it, she said that she practiced “white” witchcraft. She was a keeper of the witches’ oath to “do no harm to others”. Her mentor, “The Chicken Man”, lived in New Orleans, La. She would often make road trips to visit him. The drives from Denver to New Orleans consisted of road trip games, fried chicken, white sliced bread and music by the Gap Band (can you hear Charlie Wilson’s signature coo?) , I love road trips to this day. We took a lot of them. Once in New Orleans, there would be hushed conversation between her and the Chicken Man in his House of Voodoo followed by bags filled with anointed supplies she needed to practice her craft. Back at the candle shop she had all of the things one would imagine a witch to have. Candles, oils, stones, teas and herbs, sachets and such things. The candles, in particular, fascinated me. Black skulls, wax molds of naked male and female bodies, pillars of all colors and sizes and various designs of candle snuffers kept me intrigued. Her counseling sessions; however, seemed to be held more so at home than at the shop. I did my best to eavesdrop, but mainly I would just see people leave from the living room couch with enchanted sachets and very specific instructions on how to carry out the spells she cooked up for them.
The kitchen was also sacred space. As it were, the practicing witch was also an amazing cook. I loved her cooking. In my opinion, no one’s cooking could compare. There was a close second though; my daughter’s paternal grandmother can throw down too! But ultimately, my grandmother’s cooking ruled supreme for me.
I was her right-hand girl when it came to kitchen responsibilities. This included preparation of shopping lists, grocery shopping, cleaning, and assisting in the kitchen. She was very well organized and structured in the way things were done. Canned goods were always organized with the items having the earliest expiration date in front. All labels faced forward. All jars, wiped clean.
I knew I had been blessed with the kitchen wand when she called on me to make her breakfast. It consisted of only one egg, over-medium, with a slice of toast. The egg whites had to be cooked through, but not crispy and the yolk runny, as for the toast, it had to be golden brown and perfectly buttered from edge to edge. It is a gross mistake to assume that cooking eggs properly is a simple task and for a young teen this was daunting. Others had tried and failed. I’m a perfectionist by nature and a people pleaser so I wanted nothing more than to show the matriarch that I could manage the kitchen. This would be how I proved it. I passed her test and was the only one of her children and grandchildren “allowed” to cook for her. To have this seal of approval was an honor and I have been charming people with food ever since.
I certainly have inherited many of my grandmother’s ways. After all, she raised me. Drawing candle lit baths is a cherished practice I’ve adopted as my own as is making enchanted meals. My ceremonial dress is a simple white Williams-Sonoma half-apron with crisp borders and double front pockets. After my apron strings are tied into a neat square knot, I am bound to link my energy to the task at hand and cast my cooking spell. Confections are the “easiest” to enchant because of their versatility. They can be made with any flavor, formed into any shape, made into any color and decorated innumerously. It’s plain to see the work being done. With a few select ingredients, I’m working roots almost unconsciously.
My tabletop is my “cook’s altar”, I adorn it with sacred “artifacts” appropriate for whatever the eating occasion. My tricked out Halloween theme this year honors the season of the witch and in particular my grandmother.
She enjoyed celebrating and having a good a time. In that spirit, my daughter and I went to see the musical “Wicked” at the Gershwin theater in New York City. We equally enjoyed the reading the book and the performance about the true story of the witches of Oz. On Halloween night, however, I took my son to the midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Something my grandmother did with us. It literally horrified him. It, along with the production team involved in the experience, far exceeded his threshold for vulgarity. He admitted that he had never experienced anything like it before and he could just as well do without. He couldn’t believe my grandmother took us to see this show. I could, Tim Curry was brilliant in this film.
This was a harvest season to be remembered, apron strings released, my work is done.
WITCH FINGER COOKIES
YUMMY CHOCOLATE MUMMY CUPCAKES
ENCHANTED CARAMEL APPLES
MEATBALLS & MARINARA SAUCE