Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
We can thank the trio of witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth for making eye of newt a must-have ingredient when cooking up any spell.
Since today is Halloween, we’re taking a break from our everyday cooking to look at what went into those bubbling cauldrons of days gone by.
What kitchen witch among us hasn’t tried to cook up a little bit of culinary magic at one time or another? Of course, for some, a love potion might be nothing more than a recipe for good chocolate chip cookies.
Whether we call them superstitions or old wives’ tales, little bits of witchcraft are part of our modern-day lives and kitchens.
Those jack-o’-lanterns sitting on the porch today come from a centuries-old tradition of placing them outside to scare off evil spirits.
Ever spill the salt and then throw a pinch over your shoulder for good luck? The practice also began as a way to keep away the devil.
The old wives’ tale about throwing an apple peel over your shoulder to see the initials of your true love is a watered-down version of ancient witchcraft. And who would dare deny that Grandma’s chicken soup has healing powers?
Perhaps not surprisingly, witchcraft of the “eye of newt” variety is still practiced today, although, perhaps without the newt.
British author Danaan Elderhill, in his new book The Magic Book of Cookery (AuthorHouse), explores the recipes and rituals used by a fictional coven of 17th-century Bohemian witches called the Friends of Euphrosyne, after the Greek goddess of fun and laughter.
According to the lore, the group was forced to hide their beliefs to survive witch-hunting of the time, and developed rituals that could be assimilated into social gatherings. “Friends of Euphrosyne turned to this deity after they discovered that the most effective magic was that carried out with fun, joy and the spirit of friendship,” Elderhill notes.
Elderhill, who practices witchcraft and shamanism, filled the book with the dinner rituals of the group, which allegedly can attract good health, love, money, a new job or even getting over the death of a loved one.
Witches’ connection with nature is well known and the dinners reflect that relationship. The recipes involve plenty of fresh ingredients — vegetables, herbs and spices.
“Pagans love and worship nature in all its forms,” Elderhill said in an email interview.
While the image of an ugly witch over a bubbling cauldron is one we are most familiar with at Halloween, Elderhill said those who practice witchcraft aren’t offended by it, even though it isn’t accurate. “I have been into witchcraft for over nine years now and I never had a cauldron like that,” he said.
He said the image of good witches have been boosted by modern-day popular culture, including the Harry Potter books and movies, and television shows like Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which feature good witches.
Elderhill said he spent time perfecting the recipes and the rituals in the book.
“I love food. I like to mix and explore new ingredients. … Flavors are important to be able to indulge your sense[s] and [make] it a pleasant experience. But even more important are the magical properties of the ingredients. I have managed to maintain a nice balance to ensure that all dishes are delicious, unusual, but nice,” he said.
Along with the recipes, Elderhill includes the rituals for creating bewitching get-togethers, including such details as when the meals are to be eaten, how guests are to be seated, and what rituals guests need to perform before coming to the table.
Here is the entree recipe taken from “the dinner ritual to attract good health.” It’s for fish, which every modern-day cook knows is healthful eating.
According to Elderhill, this meal is best eaten during a full moon.
DINNER TO ATTRACT
8 cod fillets
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup water
4 bay leaves
Pinch of fresh ginger (1 tsp. cut into tiny little pieces)
Pinch of fresh rosemary
Pinch of parsley
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
On the morning of the meal, in a ceramic or glass oven-proof dish, place the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and water, and the bay leaves, ginger, rosemary and parsley. Stir for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. Then cut the onion and garlic into small pieces and add them to the dish with the rest of the ingredients.
Put the fillets in one by one to make sure they all absorb the flavors and are well distributed and covered by the mix of liquid and herbs. Leave it to rest for 2 hours. (See editor’s note.) Put the dish in the oven at medium heat (350 degrees) for 40 to 50 minutes, making sure the fish is cooked, but not burned or overcooked.
You can accompany this meal with rice and any salad that combines green and white colors.
Makes 8 servings.
Editor’s note: Refrigerate fish while marinating.
— Adapted from The Magic Book of Cookery, Danaan Elderhill