full moon soup
My cooking and eating habits have taken a noticeable shift in the new year. Ever since I began learning to cook, food has always been a source of meditation and experimentation for me. But this year, I’ve begun approaching food as medicine. I’ve long struggled with recurrent health ailments, and this winter alone I’ve battled various flu strains and other illnesses. During those periods of disease, nourishing and vitamin-rich food and herbs transformed from a source of comfort to a source of empowerment in my self-healing. In addition, I’ve re-incorporated meat back into my diet after two years of vegetarianism.
But as anyone who’s ever enjoyed a transcendental meal at least once in their life knows (everyone, I hope), food can nourish more than just the physical body. It can provide deep, abiding emotional and spiritual nourishment as well. When I broke my long fast on meat, it was with my grandmother’s traditional Christmas feast of crown roast pork with a cranberry gravy. Each bite was succulent, juicy, complex. Each bite was imbued with her love and care. When the meat was finished, I picked up the bone with my fingers and relished my animal pleasure in tearing the remaining flesh from it. Everyone at the table that night agreed it was the best crown roast my grandmother had ever made.
Here’s where my new favorite cookbook comes in, one that celebrates food and its many intangible powers. I’ve been fawning over Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection since college, but have been getting by with free passages on Google Books until my sister finally gifted me a copy for Christmas. It’s a treasure. Jessica lives in San Francisco and runs Three Stone Hearth, a community-supported and worker-owned kitchen, and actually coined the now-popular term “locavore,” someone who sources their food locally. Her cookbook devotes 13 chapters to the 13 lunar phases, and she writes compelling essays and recipes for each. With its focus on seasonality, ecology, tradition, and ritual (nevermind a celebration of lunations), its a witch’s dream cookbook if I ever saw one.
This is how I like to cook. As an urban dweller, observing the cyclical phases of the moon is a way for me to root myself in the present moment in a more holistic way than just observing a date on our manmade Gregorian calendar. When I honor the seasons and lunations with my cooking, my kitchen becomes my healing center, my space for radical rejuvenation. Strength, intuition, and creativity are nourished here. I like to cook barefoot or while wearing thick socks, donned in a long skirt with my hair pulled back in a scarf. I like to burn a candle and have a crystal, usually a bright amethyst cluster, glowing nearby. I like to cook alone, allowing my thoughts to drift there and back again.
The February full moon has many names in many traditions across North America. The most common names are “Snow Moon,” “Hunger Moon,” and “Bone Moon,” as this is the time of year when snow was deepest and for Native American communities food was most scarce and hunger at its most acute. Bones were gnawed clean and boiled for healing bone marrow broth. But there are other North American native names that speak to seasonal rituals. One of my favorites is from the Wishram tribe of the Pacific Northwest, who called this moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon.” This name conjures such a striking image – one of a small community woven closely together for warmth and sustenance beneath one of the coldest moons of the year.
For this moon, I’ve crafted a soup (loosely borrowed from a parsnip soup in Jessica’s book) that blends together parsnips, leeks, and the humble celery root. All of the ingredients are white and when sliced, they all resemble small full moons on the cutting board. The homemade vegetable stock is essential to this soup, since you “charge” it energetically beneath the full moon and imbue it with its power. The final soup looks like a rising gold moon in the bowl.
I’m intentionally publishing this post on the First Quarter moon, several days before the coming full moon on February 25, so you may have time to gather your ingredients together to prepare it and enjoy it a week from now. If you’d like to prepare a vegan version, you could substitute the cream with one or two Yukon gold potatoes.
Here’s wishing that your moon be magical and deeply nourishing.
full moon vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
2-3 large carrots, peeled if not organic and chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
green tips of leeks for the soup
bunch of parsley
other herbs on hand – thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage
Warm some olive oil in a large stock pot on medium-high. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and let them brown and sizzle while you gather your other ingredients. Add them in, one by one, then pour cold filtered water over the vegetables to cover (about 8-10 cups). Cover and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to simmer for 40 minutes, until the broth tastes flavorful. Strain out and discard the vegetables.
Place the covered pot outside beneath the full moon to absorb its potent energies. Retrieve your pot in the morning and store in the fridge for up to a few days, or freeze for later use.
full moon soup
2 T reserved bacon fat, butter, or coconut oil
3-4 small/medium leeks, white parts only, rinsed and sliced
5-6 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 celery root, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bouquet garni*
1 quart + of full moon stock (see above)
3/4 cup cream or 1 cup whole milk
*Bouquet garni – bundle together with string a bay leaf, a few parsley stems with most leaves removed, thyme stems with or without leaves attached, and a couple sage leaves.
Heat the fat in a large dutch oven or thick-bottomed pot on medium heat. Saute the leeks until soft and golden. Add the parsnips and celery root and toss to cover with the fat and leeks. Cover the vegetables with stock to cover by 1 inch. Add the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or more, until the vegetables are very tender.
Remove the bouquet garni, and puree the soup with an immersion blender or with a regular blender (carefully if it’s still hot!). Add more stock if necessary to get a smooth consistency. Add the cream or milk, and season to taste with salt and pepper, and maybe a dusting of nutmeg or pinch of herbs.