Thursday, December 09, 2010

kitchen witch

While the powdery New Zealand rain dusts the lawn outside, I'm learning to cream butter and sugar with my hands. You laugh when I call it "percussive dairy massage," pulling and twisting and feeling the cat's-tongue roughness of the mixture as it enters and leaves my fists.

I've always loved to bake, but I'd always been sensually subtracted from this part of the process, letting my stand mixer churn mechanically through the dough. Now, I'm literally up to my elbows in meltingly soft sweetness -- there are fifty guests to feed tonight, and everyone's going to want a handful of lavender-and-rosepetal shortbread hearts.

This kitchen rings with happiness. I believe this to be so because Anusara, the chef, is beyond description.

She's the MorrĂ­gan, all fire and birth and mystery. She has borne no less than eight children. She could easily be my mother, in fact, but she could just as easily be my sister. She is of the forest, and the wind, and the moon, and all of these speak to her in languages the rest of us have forgotten. She never comes out and says that she practices magick, in as many words, because it doesn't need the saying; if you're with her, you're eating what she has made for you, and so you're deep in her magick already.

To say Anusara is a cook is like saying Guernica is a poster. I've never been so transported by food in my life. What she does is deeply spiritual, and profound, and molecular. Without Anusara in the kitchen, it's a very nice and well-appointed industrial kitchen; with her, it's a temple.

I've rolled and plied a hundred shortbread hearts from this boulder of swooningly scented dough and baked them to blondeness in the oven. Inexplicably, I find myself weaving an open-centered tower of cookies in the middle of a wide, flat charger. When I've finished, I look up -- and there she is, waiting with a fistful of roses for the edible vase. She's smiling a secret smile; I'm sure she compelled me to build it for her. We laugh.

As I watch Anusara float around the shortbreads, fluttering lavender petals and icing sugar over the cookies and the roses like a tiny snowfall, I think about how lucky we are to share this space with her -- and how much I have yet to learn about food, power, wisdom and womanhood.

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