This blog started out as solely focused on food. cooking and spirituality are incredibly co-mingled for me, and now I'm adding to the focus by making the blog more about my spiritual life in general. I hope the result is something readable!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fermentation and Culture

Thoughts on fermentation:

It may seem a little out there to have a post about tea on my spirituality blog, but this is a perfect example of how my thought process works, regarding daily spiritual practice.

The first infusion (rinse) went into a bowl, and that along with half of the second infusion (which I drank) got left as an offering. In drinking tea I cannot help but think about all the work, the human effort and inspiration that went into crafting the tea, and how the combination of different forces and factors has created the beverage I consume daily. Pu-erh tea in particular has a lot of work put into it, and it’s a group effort between the leaf, the person crafting it, and the bacteria that ferments it (and, eventually, the person brewing and drinking it).

Fermentation is one of those weird, ancient food prep techniques that really makes no sense when you think about it, allowing things to rot and then consuming them anyway and somehow that makes the food different and in many cases better tasting and better for you than just eating it raw. What the hell, man! The first people discovering cheese when like, their mare’s milk got jostled and bacteriafied in a leather pouch on the way from point A to point B must have freaked out. It’s one thing, really, to eat something like that once because you know, early human cultures, subsistence level society, etc, you’d better clean your plate. If you are working with limited resources, yes, it makes perfect sense that a food-mistake ends up getting eaten or drunk anyway. But the weird thing, the special marvellous human magic thing, that happens when people decide to do it again, on purpose. We as a species are great at making tools, and taking disparate elements and combining them and making something completely different from them. And we’re great at thinking completely outside the box. We think nowhere near the box. The box is on a different continent.

Eventually, through generations of experimenting and probably lots of people getting poisoned from bad fermentation efforts, we end up with with a standardized process to make edibles that are really delicious, infinitely varied, and full of the energy, focus, and passion of a lot of human beings: Beer, bread, yogurt, cheese, dried sausage, miso, pu-erh. When I sit down and take the time to actually think about it, it blows my mind.

The thing about fermentation is that you need bacteria. And these days, in modern western society, bacteria is a thing that we in general are terrified of. Every day at work I am confronted with great huge pump bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer, because it’s cold and flu season and for god’s sake get the germs off your hands. But I always take the time to wash my hands with soap and water instead, because I don’t want to kill off all the bacteria on my hands. And I especially don’t want to do it with glorified rubbing alcohol that dries out my skin and creates a billion little microcuts and allows more bacteria, the different, nasty death-kind, to get into my bloodstream.

Bacteria are weird. We vilify them and fear them and yet we need them, to make things we consider staple foods. A group of bacteria isn’t called a population, it’s called a culture. And that makes me think about what defines a culture, both human or bacterial. In both cases we have a group of individuals working in harmony, and that group creates something unique, something that differentiates it from other groups, something that leaves its mark on the world. As an artist and a crafter and a cook I participate in my culture, and I try to add to it and enrich it with my efforts. I can’t do it, can’t create or savor or fully participate, without the aid of other people and other organisms, and without the forces that create and maintain life on this earth.

And for that, I offer the tea I brew as thanks and recognition. I hope it was well-received. 

Pu-erh Tea

Tea Adventures: Ripe Pu-erh

About three weeks ago, I bought a lovely little gaiwan, or lidded cup, in the interests of furthering my tea appreciation. I adore oolong teas and I want to learn more about the traditional Chinese gongfucha tea ceremony and, generally, the style of brewing that focuses on multiple short infusions of the tea to get a lot of brewings out of a small amount of leaves. It's practical!

The gaiwan is totally adorable, and a much better learning tool than say, immediately jumping into a yixing clay teapot, because those things can be a serious investment (they were the best part of that crappy second episode of series 1 of Sherlock, IMO). The gaiwan is also way useful, since it's nice glazed porcelain it's not going to absorb the aroma and flavors of tea like unglazed yixing ware, meaning that I can try out a lot of different kinds of tea in the gaiwan and not be locked into just, say, tieguanyin. Granted if I had an yixing teapot I'd be drinking tieguanyin all the damn time, but that's neither here nor there at the moment. My first try with the gaiwan was with some gunpowder green that I have had sitting around for a year, I'm not gonna lie, because it's rolled so tight the tea keeps very well, and I've made a dent in this giant pound bag but man. 

It worked nicely, but I didn't get any pictures of the process. This afternoon,however, I decided to be bold and try a type of tea I've never brewed before: pu-erh. With the gaiwan came two little samples of pu-erh, one "raw" traditionally-processed bunch from 2008, and one "ripe" or artificially fermented (and therefore cheaper, more consistent, and easier to brew) sample from 2006. I went with the ripe sample, and I still have about half of it left over for another go, but I'm totally not done with the first brewing yet.

And now, photographic evidence of my adventures in being brave and a grownup and trying new things:

My gear all set up. Yes I am using a shot glass as a drinking vessel because I don't have nice small teacups.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

30 Days of Paganism Master Post

Okay, since I clearly failed at the revamp effort in June, I'm appling an actual format to the posts so I can write about spiritual subjects regularly. So There.

Here, then, is my slightly tweaked 30 Days of Paganism Intro and Link List:

  1. Master Post
    7. Beliefs – Divination
    8. Beliefs – Holidays
    9. Deity and Gender
    10. Pantheons and Patrons and Eclecticism, Oh My!
    11. Pantheon – Blood Mother
    12. Pantheon – Shining God
    13. Pantheon – Liminal God
    14. Pantheon – Genius Loci
    15. Pantheon – Ancestors and Animals
    16. Nature and the Dead
    17. Daily Routines
    18. Community and Why I Suck At It
    19. Paganism and my family/friends
    20. Paganism and my partner
    21. Other paths I’ve explored-- Hall Of Regrets
    22. Paganism and major life events
    23. Ethics
    24. Personal aesthetics and Paganism
    25. Favoured ritual tools, and why
    26. Any “secular” pastimes with religious significance, and why
    27. How your faith has helped you in difficult times
    28. One misconception about paganism you’d like to clear up
    29. The future of Paganism
    30. Has This Been Useful to Me?

    Hopefully something good can come of this, and I won't spend the month being a complete lump. who knows! ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Repurposing the Blog

So. I've gotten sick of having this periodic waxing and waning of concern for my spiritual growth. This past year has done a lot for helping me really incorporate my beliefs into a general milieu of daily activity, but my relationship with the greater world of Paganism is an on-again, off-again one. And I think that needs to change.
So what do I, a solitary sort-of eclectic sort-of apathetic pagan do? I start a blog. This is just how it's done, it seems, in this day and age. Also this means now I can sound off on issues like OMG THE LABELING CRISIS in a venue other than comment threads. Man, comment threads, such turbulent places. Anyway.

I re-named the blog The Liminal Pagan, because honestly that's about as concise a name as I can think of. I'm still a foodie, and I still love incorporating my spirituality into the kitchen, but can I really call myself a Kitchen Witch? I don't know. I've grown about as leery of the term "witchcraft" as I have of "eclectic neopaganism," and besides that the magical system I'm currently investigating doesn't fall under the umbrella of European Witchcraft. Mostly.

The "Liminal" in the name applies to several different aspects of my life: I identify as biracial (even though there's more than just two ethnic groups in my heritage, but I base the term on how my parents self-identify), bisexual (but these days "queer" seems like a better general descriptor), flexaterian foodie (who loves bacon and making pie crusts with lard), eclectic pagan (who is deeply invested in avoiding cultural appropriation and simply going with "what feels right.") I am betwixt and between several easily-defined categories, and that has made some things in life difficult for me. The most consistently difficult has been my quest to find a religious system where I feel truly at home.

What I hope to do with this blog, other than share my successes (and failures) in the kitchen, is ask myself a lot of difficult questions about my own spirituality, and, in attempting to answer them, collect a viable, coherent framework for how I live my spiritual life.

I certainly don't feel like I'm a special and unique snowflake (or trying to enter all the events in the Oppression Olympics), but I do believe that the problems and questions I face make for an interesting viewpoint on the world of Paganism, hopefully one that is worth reading. I also hope that my efforts will be useful or interesting to folks who are dealing with some of the same issues as I am.

Sounds good? Let's get started.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have been craving miso soup lately. I have no idea where this came from, since I think I've had it maybe once before. what is that about. WHO KNOWS
Also, part of my not even new year's resolution, just a resolution, whatever, is to eat more damn vegetables. It is difficult to be mostly vegetarian when living with a vegetarian who does not like many vegetables. Being the cooking one in the house, it is my job to fix this problem.
So I've spent the last two days, I think, browsing 101 Cookbooks and looking at all these gorgeously-photographed dishes and tonight we made a grocery run to get things for an ACTUALLY INTERESTING SALAD.
like watercress and dandelion greens and spinach and kale interesting. with GOAT CHEESE.
All those things also go great in SOUPS which I am intensely in favor of because it is winter and in the next couple days we're going to get a snowdump again and that equals soup.
It also equals Girlfriend has developed a passion for homemade bread and we're making another loaf or two tomorrow. And fresh baked bread goes wonderfully with both salads AND soups.

And because Wegmans is an awesome chain of stores we picked up some organic white miso and tofu so it will be MISO SOUP TIME SUPER SOON OMG YOU GUYS.
we will be getting our green vegetables, for sure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bone Soup!

Like Stone Soup, only with more carnage.
Girlfriend's mum did a chicken in the slow-cooker a month or so ago, and since she doesn't eat soup, I asked if I could have the remains of the bird with which to make DELICIOUS STOCK.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2011, everyone. Does it feel like we're living in the future yet? do you still want your damn jetpack? Me too, friends, me too. But come next year I'll be laughing my ass off at the people who've misinterpreted the Mayan calendar and think that the world is going to end. I'll have to make a special "ha don't you feel silly" pie for the occasion. What do you think says that? Key Lime?

ANYWAY. If you, like I, slept in a whole heck of a lot today and feel like you've missed most of New Year's Day, you may feel a little groggy upon waking. And so I present one of my new favorite recipes, fresh from my own brain. It is delicious, filling, and requires just enough steps to sort of wake you up and ease you into conscious activity without being life threatening. I think.
Also good, probably, if you've got a hangover! So here's the World's Greatest Fried Egg Sandwich:

1) Decide you want eggs.
2) Open the fridge to see that there is only one egg, and opt for a Fried Egg Sandwich. But it will be so delicious you will not miss that other egg, if you normally eat two for a serving.
3) Melt some Delicious Bacon Fat in Baby Skillet. While you are doing this, warm the egg up by letting it take a bath in a bowl of warm water.
4) Check to see what kind of bread you have. Hmm, that last kaiser roll is looking dry, better use that up.
5) If the kaiser roll is incredibly dry and would stick to your mouth like cotton balls, slice it in half and put it in the toaster. TOAST THAT THING.
6) Crack the egg into the skillet, get a piece of shell in the skillet, grumble to yourself in disgust and fish it out with one of the larger bits of eggshell.
7) Cover skillet with a well-fitting lid!
8) If the kaiser roll is toasted, get it out of the toaster and only burn your fingers a little bit, and then slather both sides with miracle whip (or, if you're a better foodie than I am, your own homemade mayonnaise). Slather it. I'm not kidding.
9) Get some baby spinach out of the crisper drawer. Ooh, that's not going to be good for much longer.
10) Check the egg, and if the whites are all set nicely, flip it over. My egg today was rather old, so I did not have it as runny as I normally like. This was over hard. like Dale Cooper hard.
11) When the egg is done, put it on the bottom portion of the roll. put the skillet back on the burner.
12) Toss the spinach into the skillet with the delicious bacon fat, turn it over a few times with your spatula to make sure it's got a good coating of fat, and cover it for about a minute. While this is happening, slice some fresh mozzarella that is not so fresh anymore and has gotten a little too tangy for Girlfriend's taste but you still think it's delicious, dammit, and slap those pieces on top of the egg.
13) Check the spinach, stir it around a bit, flip it, sprinkle some salt on it, and cover it back up.
14) Do some dishes while you wait another minute. Or get some juice.
15) Turn the heat off, uncover the spinach, give it one last stir just to check that all the leaves are gorgeous and shiny dark green and wilted but not SO mushy that they're falling apart. They should be just nice and clumpy. No falling apart spinach. If it looks absolutely wonderful (which it will), spatula it onto the cheese-covered egg, and top with the other half of the kaiser roll.
16) Eat sandwich, exclaiming loudly and passionately how awesome it is, to anyone who is around. Even if you're alone in the house.

Don't you feel better now? I know I do. and I am ready to face the day! Er...afternoon. or evening. whatever. I have more knitting to do.

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