Food As Ritual (and a recipe for cider)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I really like food. Therefore it only makes sense that one of my first posts will be on that subject! One of the many reasons I’m so fascinated by food is because it is so often the center of community. In the wise words of writer Anne Bramley:
"Why do we crave food to bless a union, lavish a birth, or bury the dead? Why toast the future and savor the past? Why do we use bread and bones and salt and wine to tell the stories of ourselves and our people that cannot possibly be told in any other way? Because we like to give meaning to our food, and food to our meaning. Ask any anthropologist — humans like ritual”
(and later) “…Food and ritual are bound together like birthday and cake, Easter and egg, or even breakfast and bed. Rituals don't have to carry religious gravitas or the weight of the world as it revolves through the seasons. Think afternoon tea or midnight feasts; Swedish fika or Chinese dim sum.”
I agree with Anne - food is a particularly powerful tool of connection. Perhaps it’s because so many of our senses are involved when we are indulging in a meal, or perhaps it’s because it conjures upimages of sharing the wealth in our ancient communities. In any case, it’s a powerful tool.
Think now about any food rituals you have in your own life, religious or otherwise (and please feel free to share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear!) The more I think about it, the more examples come to mind… from microwave popcorn at slumber parties to butter-mochi by candlelight, post-sauna. I think about my family’s Sunday breakfasts complete with sourdough waffles and my friends’ weddings with a cake cutting ceremony. The list goes on! So why not be a little more intentional about it?
Because that’s what it boils down to, really: intention. Part of what makes these rituals or ceremonies so powerful are the meanings we assign to them, whether it’s a specific time with loved ones or something more specific than that. I’ve always adored the writer Sharon Creech, and one of my favorite books is “Ruby Holler.” In part of the story, the characters are discussing how it felt to become empty nesters to their new foster children:
“How’d you get used to it?” Dallas asked.
Tiller swirled his spaghetti. “Well, first off, we made ourselves some getting-over-kids stew, special recipe.”
“Yeah, right,” Florida said. There isn’t really stew that makes you get over missing your kids.”
“We’ve got some amazing secret recipes,” Sairy said. “Beat-the-blues broccoli and anti-cranky crumpets and—“
“Hey, with us here now,” Dallas said, “maybe you ought to make yourselves some getting-used-to-kids-again stew.”
Tiller reached for a meatball. “What do you think we had last night?” he said.
Isn’t that imagery wonderful? The thought of creating magical recipes full of intention really struck a chord with me when I was a kid. I’ve used this my whole life, from baking a “saying goodbye to my dog cake” to boiling a pot of “magic cure-all feel better soup.” Do you have any favorite recipes that could be re-imagined in a creative new way to serve a specific purpose?
Here’s a recipe of mine:
“Letting Go of Summer Cider” (serves 2)
A warm and delicious brew combining the fall flavors of crisp apples and vitamin c-rich rose hips with summertime honey and rose petals. Perfect to bridge the seasons. Alter as you see fit.
2 1/2 cups fresh apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 c. wild rose petals
1/4 c. dried rosehips
a small pinch of burned fir needles, for depth
1 Tbs. honey, or to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer on low for half an hour, or until the rosehips have plumped up. Strain, and serve hot (perhaps with some cookies, as pictured.) As you sip, close your eyes and picture the beauty of summer - the dewdrops glistening on ripe fruits and soft flowers, the long evening sunlight, the warm breezes. Then picture the progression of the season - the fruits shriveling and dropping, the flowers fading, the days growing shorter. This transition can be particularly difficult as we look towards a long dark winter (at least here in the northern hemisphere), but as I sip my cider I like to envision the energy of the plants moving downward, into the roots. Picture all of that vitality slowly making its way back down into the earth, where it will sleep restfully under a cozy blanket of snow until spring returns and wakes it up. All safe and sound and snuggly. Ah, now doesn’t that feel better?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration into food and ritual and intention. As always, I welcome any discussion on this subject! I’d love to know about your own food ceremonies, or how you plan to bring this inspiration into your own life. What special recipes will you be cooking up this week?
With love and nourishment,
P.S. If you enjoy these free posts, please consider donating to my Patreon page to support me and my work! <3