I’ve been a bit of a toes-in-the-water witch since ten years ago when my dad gave me Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I read it and thought it made sense to me. Parts of it fit with how I understood things. I’ve read more since then and have found that I’m pretty sure I fit pretty well into being a kitchen witch or green witch mentally, but I was afraid to practice anything. Not afraid of getting hurt. I know that things like that are possible, but I feel like the chances of that are decreased by making sure you think things through and actually research what you’re doing before you decide you’re going to try it. If you know the risks and how situations can arise, then you’re more likely to avoid it.
No, I’ve been afraid of the people in my life making me feel ashamed of it. I absolutely think that fitting into the natural rhythm of things and cooking are good things. I think that there’s a cycle to everything and you’re helping a positive energy flow by working with what’s already there. I’m in college and have a lot of friends in the queer community, so I tend to see a lot of anti-religion atheists who tend to ridicule anything that isn’t pure science and math. I know that it makes sense for them to do that because so many of them have been hurt by religion, but it’s still something that can make people who do believe in something that is more intuition than logic feel uncomfortable. Throughout high school I didn’t have the time, energy, or economics to try to practice. Now I hold back for fear of saying or doing something that will lead to their scorn. That… doesn’t really strike me as a valid reason though. Not at this point when I really feel invested in starting to establish who I want to be for the rest of my life. People change, but I feel like I have the potential to make a lot of change now.
So… The other day I started that process. I sought out pagan Tumblrs and started reading. I loosened up the mental restrictions I keep on myself and let myself emotionally prod at my environment. It feels right to do this. The other day I ended up making an off-handed comment to my ex-girlfriend because she was talking about a mutual friend who was very anti-religion, which lead to us discussing how we felt about world energy flow, gardening, and cooking. She believes many of the same things I do, which I found validating and relieving. I want a community that I feel I can express this part of myself in, and I think that people who feel similar things is an excellent place to start.
We talked about how we think cooking is a way of nurturing people, a way of offering them something throughout the day that they might not have otherwise. Eventually that led to her offering to teach me to make bread, which I was incredibly excited about. My father tried to teach me when I was younger, but he’s only willing to show something once. Since I couldn’t remember everything exactly, he wasn’t willing to try to show me again. When my ex-girlfriend and I made bread yesterday, I let myself actually pay attention to the process and try to track the details.
I watched her put some yeast in a small cup, and then put warmish-not-hot-or-cold water in the cup. It wasn’t filtered, though she explained that the chlorine would inhibit the growth some by killing some of the specimen. We added a double pinch of sugar and then stirred it. We watched as it started to foam, showing us that the yeast was still alive. We got out a bowl and put 3 cups of flour in it with 2 cups of the same temperature water. We added the yeast-solution to it. We forgot the salt, but as she would tell me later, the only wrong amount of salt is too much. We mixed this, waited with some plastic wrap over the bowl, and floured a counter. We dropped it out of the bowl and onto the counter where she taught me to knead it properly. “When it starts to knead back, it’s ready” she told me as we took turns kneading it. Finally it started doing that, and she picked it up. She gently bunched it into a circle and then put it back in the bowl with some oil. The plastic wrap went back on it and she told me that we would come back to it when it had doubled in size.
When we came back, she prodded it gently, and then looked at me. “Punch it,” she directed. I did so, causing the dough to deflate.
"I broke it! I’m so sorry! I broke it!" I yelped, staring at the dough. The air had left it. It wasn’t big now, but small and almost flat, my first still imprinted in it. She laughed at me and I realized that maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Eventually she calmed down enough to tell me that it was supposed to happen like that. Feeling rather foolish, I nodded and we set back to work. We cut the dough into two pieces so that we could make two loaves, and then floured the counter again. She put one piece down and then used a cup to try to roll it into a rectangle. Then she spread cinnamon and sugar over the top of it, rolled it, and pinched the ends before tucking them under the loaf. It went into one of the bread pans she had brought with the seam down. I did the other half the same way. We put plastic wrap over the bread pans loosely and let them set for about twenty minutes before I started preheating the stove. We let them grow until we could see the top of the dough from the couch, meaning it was just a bit taller than the bread pans. A line was cut in the top of each loaf carefully. She explained that some people would use a razor blade for that process, but a sharp knife works just as well. We wanted to cut through the top layer without pulling the bread in one direction too much. We put the loaves in the oven at 350 for 40 minutes.
We came back and drew them out of the stove. She popped a loaf out of the pan, burning herself and not seeming to care. “When they’re done, they’ll sound hollow when you knock on the bottom,” she explained with a smile as she gently rapped her knuckles against the flat stretch. After checking the other one, she nodded to herself. “Okay, turn off the oven, but set the timer for 8 minutes.” I did as she instructed, and the bread went back into the oven to finish. After the 8 minutes, we came back and she checked the bread again. The bread was ready, so it was set on a baking sheet to cool.
Later we made French toast with the bread and talked. We bonded over food and cooked for each other.