I have to admit I have a bit of an addiction – to collecting cookbooks. I find that reading cookbooks can sometimes take me away from the stress and aggravations that surround me. I really enjoy community cookbooks because they offer insights into how people in different parts of the country cook and entertain.
There are also certain patterns I’ve noticed. Older cookbooks tend to be a bit more regional. I’ve noticed that since the 1990s many community cookbooks are a bit more generic and less regional. You’re as likely to find recipes for Asian dishes in a Texas community cookbook as you are to find barbecue recipes. The late 1960s-1980s offered community cookbooks filled with “dump & pour” recipes relying on convenience foods.
Some community cookbooks are filled with information about the community such as sites of interest or historical tidbits. Others offer blurbs by the recipe’s contributor that give some info about where or how it originated. Some of the recipes are very down-home style whiles others are more sophisticated or gourmet.
One of my favorite collections is called America’s Best Recipes. This collection was published annually by Oxmoor House from 1988-2003. It collected what the editors considered the best recipes from various community cookbooks submitted for consideration. McIlhenny Tabasco also sponsored annual awards from 1990 to 2009 for the best community cookbooks from each region and the top three nationwide. They also had a Hall of Fame where the best selling community cookbooks of all time are memorialized (this list includes such classics as Savannah Style, Charleston Receipts and Pirate’s Pantry).
Reading these community cookbooks gives me a sense of connection to the people who created these recipes. Across time and space I can make their recipes and keep their memory alive. It makes me feel like a bit of a food historian. This is important to me because the women in my family were not very domesticated (I may have mentioned this before). We don’t have family recipes that were handed down. My ancestress’ primary mode of feeding the family was very plain, inexpensive and filling and tended to involved some type of convenience food. We might not have gone hungry but no one was clamoring for those recipes.
Food is a spiritual medium for connecting with our family, our past and those who have gone before. It’s interesting and enlightening to learn why certain dishes developed the way they did or why certain foods were popular in specific regions. In recent years America is losing some of its regional diversity. In some ways this is very good but when it comes to food I think it means some of each region’s unique foodways might be lost. So read a community cookbook today and connect with the past; keep those memories alive in spirit and honor their contributions.
Today I drew an ogam to see what I needed to consider in my daily reading. I drew Saille/Willow. In her book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, Erynn Rowan Laurie wrote “I have come to see this fid as an indication that the ancestors are sending messages in some way. It might be through the voice of falling water or through song and music.” So I decided to see what insight or advice my ancestors might have for me today. I drew the King & Queen of Swords reversed and The Tower reversed.
At first I just didn’t get this message. I was trying to see how the reversed King and Queen of Swords might represent aspects of myself. The Tower reversed was another puzzler. It puzzled me. Then I visited my former employer’s website and realized that some of the people I consider responsible for my termination, those who betrayed me, are still employed and doing quite well at the agency. I suppose I was hoping they’d be gone and I’d learned that they had flamed out in an explosive display of incompetence and ineptitude. I was greatly disappointed.
Then I started to reconsider my cards in light of this knowledge. It struck me that the King of Swords is FU, the former executive director who terminated me. The Queen of Swords is AC, my former immediate supervisor who I am sure undermined and denigrated me (but subtly, oh so subtly – she has mastered the art of killing with kind words). The Tower is the termination itself – that seminal, traumatic moment that is still impacting me no matter how much I claim to have healed.
The fact that all these cards are reversed tells me that my ancestors are telling me it’s time to really put it behind me. It’s in the past. Nothing I can do or say will change any of it. If I let them beat me and keep me down, then they’ve won. If it’s one thing I know, it’s that I come from a long line of fighters. We fought for survival. We fought to endure the curve balls life threw our way. We fought to prove our detractors wrong. I may have not been able to fight to keep the job but that doesn’t mean I need to let them win in my own mind.
Obviously I still have some issues to work out regarding that situation. I think it’s complicated by the fact that I haven’t been able to return to work. My new career is caring for the in-laws and somehow that’s not enough to wash away the sense of failure. I will heal and I will triumph again. I just need to allow myself to feel these things but not get stuck in the emotions. All that will do is make me angry and sad – neither of which is helpful in the long run.
Looking at both these cards I was struck by the idea of offerings – each image shows several bowls each filled with a variety of offerings. The offerings might serve a different purpose but for some reason what struck me was honoring the ancestors or the gods. On the Greenwood 7 of Cups a skull is surrounded by 7 cups and its keyword is mourning. The Wheel of Change 7 of Cups shows 7 bowls filled with various types of foods surrounding a grinning, fanged statue – the Fire God of Flores. These are offerings to appease the Fire God. The offerings and statue all sit on a decorated carpet shaded by a parasol, and overlooking three craters and a volcano. One of the craters is filled with burgundy fluid, the other has a greenish fluid and the third a milky blue fluid. Across the plain a mountain reaches up towards the sky but is still in the shadow of the huge volcano.
The Greenwood image shouted “honoring the Ancestors” at me. It reminded me of spiritual practices where people make offerings and give honor to the Noble Dead, the ancestors of blood and heart. The skull at the center symbolizes those dead ancestors. On the Wheel of Change 7 of Cups I was struck by the idea of someone making offerings to the deity of the volcano; sacrifices to appease the gods. Regardless of what purpose the offerings serve, the main concept is that they are offerings.
That reminded me that I could spend more time honoring my own ancestors. As part of ADF’s ritual structure and spiritual practice, honoring the Ancestors is required and recommended. Beyond the ritual structure, there is no mandatory way to do this but many members find that daily devotionals offer a wonderful opportunity to connect with the Ancestors and offer them honor and recognition. I have been somewhat remiss in this area. I certainly think about my ancestors on a regular basis but I’m not always as diligent at daily devotions or making offerings to them. The reality is that the more I honor them, the more likely they are to aide me. But more than that, I do feel it is important to remember our ancestors, even if they weren’t very nice.
I have been doing some preliminary genealogical research over the past few months and it amazes me how many of the women in my line seem to have been married to rather useless men. Of course I’m extrapolating this belief based on certain things I’ve found in the records – such as that my great-grandmother divorced my great-grandfather and the family stories I’ve heard about those I can remember. I think in past generations when it was not as easy to divorce a spouse as it is today, many men and women stayed in unhappy relationships for a variety of reasons. I don’t think such a sacrifice should be forgotten. I also think honoring and remembering the ancestors and keeping family stories alive give us a sense of connection to something much larger than ourselves. It allows us to see the patterns that have influenced our families and ultimately change those that are negative into something positive. It can also help heal rifts. For many years I had a rough relationship with my mother because I couldn’t forgive her for things that had occurred in my childhood. When I was able to take a step back and look at her childhood and her mother’s childhood, things came into focus and my perceptions shifted. This ultimately allowed me to start healing this rift and forgive her.
So although we have specific occasions for honoring those that died in war or serving this country, perhaps we need to get better at honoring our own personal dead. We can offer thanks to the grandmother whose sense of humor was passed on to us and helps us get through the rough times. Or perhaps we need to thank and honor the aunt who gifted us with her bright red hair or her no-nonsense approach to obstacles. Whatever gifts they have given me and however they continue to bless my life, I think the 7 of Cups is reminding me that I need to make more of an effort to honor my ancestors on a regular basis.