A Q&A with Carmen Spagnola, the somatic coach, kitchen witch and cookbook author.
BY JOANNE SASVARI
Before she became a somatic coach and spiritual seeker, Carmen Spagnola worked as a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and WSET-certified wine rep. Now she considers herself a “kitchen witch” — and has brought all her expertise together in a beautiful new cookbook called The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year (Countryman Press, an imprint of W.W. Norton, NY).
In it, the Victoria-based author creates menus, rituals and recipes for eight key periods of the year, and shares how to “create a little magic spell” with every meal.
What is kitchen magic, exactly? Kitchen magic is about layering our meals with spiritual nourishment and nutritional sustenance. Every plant, herb, fruit, vegetable and animal has its own life force and its own energetic signature. When we take that into our body, we are imbued with their medicine and gifts … our meals become spells and our bodies become vessels for magic to occur. We become talismanic.
What brings you the most joy? These days I am certifiably giddy about my efforts to grow a giant pumpkin. If you win a title [in a pumpkin competition], you get a jacket and everything!
What are some of your favourite recipes from the book? My favourites are the ones I first learned at cooking school in Paris in the 90s … I like the recipes that say things like “Salt the potato water till it tastes like the sea.”
What kinds of flavours would you use to create a little kitchen magic at this dark, wintry time of year? Cinnamon is so perfect for snuggly winter vibes because it ignites passion and is a key ingredient for love magic — if you wanna get frisky, add some to your coffee, hot chocolate or potpourri. For folks who really suffer from the gloom, go for oranges. They represent the sun and carry the energy of pure vitality.
Why do you think it’s so important for people to eat and drink together? Food affirms life, historically has affirmed alliances and is an ancient way to affirm our bond with each other. The most fundamental unit of society is not the hetero couple or even the nuclear family. It’s who gathers around the table.
We’re about to enter the 12 days of Yuletide (December 21 to January 1). What are some of the seasonal rituals you plan to follow? Yuletide is a replay of the year in miniature, so each day something is eaten, crafted, or placed on the altar to represent the corresponding month. Yuletide is a major deal around our house, particularly the tree worship.
We get a 10-foot-tall ceiling-scraper every year, which is dripping with hundreds of vintage glass ornaments and real candles. (We keep the fire extinguisher close by.) Sitting in the quiet house, lit only by candles on the tree and the sparkling glass, is the most peaceful I’ve ever felt.
I love those gentle Yuletide times.