/sanctuary dec 22 '16
Though the creeping cold and its halting starts have teased us through the waning autumn, here in the Mid-Atlantic, winter seems to be settling in at last. The trees are mostly bare, and the last of the hardy, fresh produce is being gleaned from the fields & gardens. This is the time of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. For those of our ancestors who farmed in four-season climates, the Winter Solstice also ominously marked the beginning of the ‘famine months’, when they would subsist on that which they had managed to preserve from earlier harvests -- and that for which they could hustle & trade in real time. The Solstice has also historically been a time to slaughter the livestock the people could not afford to feed over the long winter. As such, at this beginning of the long winter’s journey, the Solstice marks one more feast day of the year.
We too seem to find ourselves approaching a time of deep famine, politically & culturally, as our so-called president-elect approaches inauguration -- and the cultural & social systems that fostered the moment grow in their boldness. Like the peasants who clutched children to their breasts, not knowing who might be lost to starvation & sickness this season, we too find desire to cling to one another. We know not which of our friends or family might be harassed or worse in the street; die of poverty-related illnesses, slip through the cracks of a crumbling health system; or be deported from the Homes they’ve known.
While famine-time is not an unfamiliar burden, it remains debilitating to body & spirit nonetheless. Here it feels important to remember aloud that black, brown, & Indigenous people have disproportionately been enduring such famine since the so-called ‘New World’s’ colonial inception; and that privilege soothes & softens the pains of famine times. May all of us remember, no matter the privilege with which we walk, that those with less are feeling it more -- and may that inspire us each to live lives of greater compassion, grace & service.
Famine was not new to the shivering peasants of yore - it was a known, cyclical phenomenon that they spent the rest of their year preparing for. In the spring, they planted the crops and bred the livestock. In summer, they tended the fields & herds, and began to harvest. In fall, they preserved their surplus, so that the energy of the sun might carry them through the times of frozen ground. While political famines are perhaps less predictable, they are nonetheless regularly occurring and possible to prepare for. Like the farmers who slaughtered the animals they could not feed, we too must bid farewell to that which we cannot sustain. It is time to let go practices that suck our vital energy away from the work of building community, nurturing ourselves & our families, and resisting the oligarchs. We cannot afford to feed our addictions, our willful ignorance, or our abusive patterns that harm ourselves & our communities. It is time to respectfully offer a blessing to these parts of ourselves, and to release them so we may focus our resources on the work at hand.
Like the farmers who put-by food for the long winter, we too must gather in those resources that are available now, that they might feed us until the Earth is fresh & green again. It is time to shore up stores of food, water, warm clothes, survival supplies, money, friendships, art, & whatever else we need to sustain ourselves. We must remember that together, we have more. What one person does not have, their neighbor may have in abundance. Come together -- learn who in your community has what to share. If you have more than you need, offer up your surplus to communal stockpiles.
Last but not least, remember to celebrate the unfathomable miracle that is Life. This is a time of year when we gather together to feast upon the animals who were slaughtered -- to honor the Life that is taken so that others may keep living. Moreover, even though the Winter Solstice marks the longest nights, it also marks the return of growing light and the lengthening of days. In the dark & cold of winter, the sun is gathering strength, and will inevitably supplant the reign of the night. We too, can gather our strength & call upon the sun to help us not only survive this famine, but emerge ever more fierce & life-giving on the other side of it. Our spirits are our greatest strength, and we feed them when we celebrate Life together.
Written by K is for Kitchen (A project by PHLA collaborators Acorn and Frances Rose)
Some Practices for the Winter Solstice
• Consider how you spend your time & energy. What feels vital & nourishing? What feels like a diversion, or harmful pattern? What can you no longer afford to feed as we enter the famine months, and focus our energies on growing a better world?
• Feast! Invite beloveds to share an abundant & celebratory meal. Offer what you have, and welcome the gifts of food & company that arrive.
• Invest in resource-mapping. Get together with your community to learn what everyone has to offer, be it food, handy-skills, time, money, a big house, survival skills, etc. Cultivate a web of support for hard times.
• Mark the Solstice with magical practices - craft a ritual alone or with beloveds, or hold an all-night vigil to welcome the sun at dawn. Turn off the electricity to appreciate the dark mysteries of the longest night.
Recipe: Noodle Soup
(with thanks to the many peoples of China & Eastern Asia for their invention of & deep craft around noodle-making)
We offer this recipe in celebration of those livestock slaughtered for the Solstice feasts. Noodle soup is everything we want on a cold, dark night - deep warmth, powerful nourishment, & bright flavors. It's an easy dish to prepare for yourself or for many, and makes a humble, but delicious feast, available all winter long.
1 quart bone broth (see sub-recipe)
1/3 quart thinly sliced vegetables (we like to use roots: carrots, turnips, rutabaga, etc. Peppers & broccolli work well too)
1 'bundle' rice noodles (there are generally multiple sparate 'bundles' of noodles in a package. We like vermicelli.)
1/8 cup dried seaweed (Wakame & Alaria work well)
Salt, sesame oil, chili, tamari, and anything else you desire to taste.
Place the bone broth in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles and seaweed in water (in separate bowls). Once the broth is simmering, add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes. Drain the rice noodles and add to the broth. Pour the seaweed (along with its soak water) into the broth. Simmer for 1-3 minutes, until noodles are tender. Serve & season with the condiments of your choice.
*Depending on what kind of rice noodles you get, they may require a different preparation that described above. Follow the instructions on the package.
Sub Recipe: Bone Broth
Acquire bones from a local butcher or farmer. Place 2-3 bones in a cast iron skillet, drizzle with olive oil and spices. Roast on 375 for about an hour. Place bones in a stock pot or crock pot filled with water. Add a splash of vinegar (this helps the bones break down). You could stop there, but other lovely things to add include coarsely chopped vegetables (onions, roots, garlic), sliced ginger, bay leaves, and fortifying herbs like nettle. Simmer for several hours or overnight in a crock pot. Salt to taste.
During a cold spell, it can be really lovely to simply leave the pot on a simmer for a couple of days, drawing off stock as needed, and adding more water & vinegar to keep it going. There's nothing like the smell & warmth of bone broth to keep your Home feeling cozy & welcoming.
Did you know about the CSK???
Our donation-based community food project, the Community Supported Kitchen (CSK) offers a 19+ item subscription menu! Items include bone broth & noodle soup kit, as well as two amazing condiments to liven up your soup (chilli black bean sauce & alli-zinger paste). Learn more at culturalengine.strikingly.com or subscribe here. We're going to be out of town & offline Dec.20-31, but would love to set you up with rad food in the new year!