For me, one of the ‘magical’ aspects of cooking is the way ingredients come together synergistically, creating something which is more than the sum of its parts. Making soup is an especially good way of employing this kind of magic in cooking given the diversity of ingredients and the way they blend together. Ah, soup! Thrifty, warming, soothing, comforting! The perfect cold weather food.
A basic recipe for soup is to fry up some chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil and butter until they are soft. If you are using spices, throw these in and fry briefly. Now add vegetables and/or meat, stir well and pour in stock to cover (I use vegetable stock as I’m not a big fan of meat in soups, but your choice of stock is up to you). You can use stock cubes for convenience, or make your own . Add potatoes if you like a thick, hearty soup. Or lentils, or barley, or any other pulses you may have to hand. You can experiment at this stage with herbs too. Bring to the boil and then simmer until all is tender and you’re hungry. Taste and adjust seasoning – salt, pepper, spices. At this stage I often blend the soup in the food processor, as I prefer a smooth, creamy textured soup. As a final touch, you can swirl in some cream or a dollop of yoghurt. And voila. It really is that easy. And cheap. And it will taste way better than any soup out of a tin.
That is a basic recipe for soup. To add a magical dimension to your food, consider your ingredients, and choose them according to the energies you wish to bring to yourself and your fellow diners. You could for example choose earthy, grounding ingredients like root vegetables and tubers – carrots, turnips, swede, parsnips, potatoes, beetroot or Jerusalem artichokes to make a hearty ‘grounding’ soup. This could be a useful dish following a very trance-y ritual or demanding pathworking or spellworking. On the other hand, a light, spicy soup featuring ginger, chillies, paprika etc could be used to increase energy levels. Or how about a healing soup, rich in fresh green veggies, garlic and herbs? Make soup from last night’s leftovers as a form of transformation magic – creating something new and nourishing from something old.
Your choice of herbs can take into consideration their magical properties as well as their flavour. For example thyme is ruled by Venus, so you may wish to include it as an ingredient for a soup you’ll eat with your lover, or as part of your Valentine’s Day meal.
Alternatively, ingredients could be chosen to fit the time of year or the festival you are celebrating. I think a creamy, pale coloured soup like curried parsnip or leek and potato would be ideal for Imbolc, and your Lammas soup could contain seasonal ingredients like tomatoes, along with barley and a sprinkling of poppy seeds to celebrate the grain harvest. It goes without saying that the obvious dish for Samhain is pumpkin soup!
Most important of all though, is the intention that goes into creating the soup. This is where the real magic comes in. Chop and prepare the ingredients mindfully, giving thanks for the abundance that feeds you. Meditate on that which you wish to increase or bring into your life whilst stirring the pot deosil (clockwise, the direction of the sun in the sky – in the Northern Hemisphere anyway – the direction of growth), or stir widdershins (anticlockwise) whilst meditating on that which you wish to banish (say, illness – or excess weight!). Hold your hands over the pot and bless the food. Say a few words of thanks – silent or aloud – before eating.
In my family, we all used to take turns stirring our wishes into the Christmas Pudding during its preparation. This idea works with many dishes, including soup! So if the soup is to be made for a group gathering or celebration, make sure everyone in the group takes a turn stirring the pot and adding a few words of blessing over it. That will certainly ensure a potent and nourishing brew!
Finally, when you have finished your magical meal, what about a spot of divination? My friend Reya taught me soup bowl divination – thank you Reya! After your meal, gaze into your soup bowl. Rather like reading the tea leaves, you should find that the patterns left behind by the interaction of spoon and soup dregs (with a little squinting and a smidge of imagination) resolve themselves into symbols that can be interpreted as you see fit. Like most forms of divination, it’s often easier to read for another than for yourself. And of course, it goes without saying that deliberate manipulation of soup dregs is cheating!
Happy magical soup making and eating – bon appetit!