What You Need Is a Kitchen Witch

Who do you rely on to help ward off the bad intentions that are directed toward your family’s kitchen?

Notice that bundle of red peppers – traditional medicine

Folks in the Old World used to have these little dolls made to look like old women bundled up in traditional scarves and aprons, usually with a broom and some garden produce, and would hang them up in the kitchen for good luck. They called their doll the “kitchen witch” and she did everything from ensuring that the woman of the house didn’t burn the roast to warding off ill-will that might be directed toward the home. That’s a lot to ask of an inanimate object, but I believe it had its roots in something real.

Kitchen Witch Doll

A witch (or crone) is the archetypal figure found in nearly every culture that represents the wise, old woman. She was the village sage or, if you were lucky, the grandparent living with you (Oh, the days of inter-generational living…we need you back!) When I need a wise woman, I usually find her on the Internet. Thanks to the many knowledgeable kitchen witches out there, I really have had better luck with my roasts.

Even more than perfectly cooked roasts, though, we need help in warding off the evil intentions directed at our homes and the people living there by entities like the food, chemical and drug industries. We need wisdom that will help us in our search for food that is of the most worth and the knowledge of how to prepare it according to the slow, nourishing tradition of several millennia of mothers that have gone before us on this planet. We need this in a day when, it seems like, the whole generation of would-be crones that came before us left the kitchen in favor of other pursuits and now have nothing to offer those of us who are trying to find our way.

The witch usually has a broom and some food – common, homey items – but powerful emblems of the everyday work that women do to maintain health and happiness. Great things only “come to pass” because of “small and simple things” (Alma 37:6), things like the quality of the daily bread we give our children and what is in the lunches we pack for our husbands.

There are so many things I wish I would have known when it really mattered!!! Thankfully, we are rediscovering a lot of what was lost over the last 70 years, or so. We can re-weld the chain linking us to ancient maternal wisdom. That just happens to be this Mormodonna’s passion. I want to share with you all the things I wish I had known sooner — the only things that will make a difference moving forward for the next generation.


How to Cook for Someone With Anxiety

You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting someone who experiences ongoing scuffles with anxiety. It always amazes the Mormodonna that we, as individuals, don’t remember that this is a new problem.

IMG_0456The figures are shocking: “…anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to ‘The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders’, a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,60(7), July 1999). This was 10 years ago.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why problems with anxiety are skyrocketing, even among children? Are we experiencing a “genetic epidemic” (is this really a thing?), or is it more likely that altered environmental factors are at work? We got our first big clue not too far back when mankind discovered that a healthy gut flora was crucial to overall health. But some really groundbreaking discovery has been made in understanding just what exactly is disrupting the microbiome to the extent that millions of children and adults now suffer with chronic anxiety (not to mention all the other dodgies of the day).

IMG_0453Cook organic food. Organic food is certified to be grown without the use of certain herbicides and pesticides that are known to kill the healthy micro organisms your body depends on to produce essential amino acids. If you haven’t heard of glyphosate,  do your homework. It’s the main ingredient in RoundUp. It’s used on everything these days from soy to sugarcane to beets and wheat. It is pervasive in our food supply and it has been given the green light by government agencies because it is thought that it is harmless to humans. The way glyphosate works so well is by disrupting an essential enzyme pathway in plant cells. We humans may not have the same pathway but all the little inhabitants that live in our gut do! And we rely on them to make things like serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and methionine – essential for mental health!

The only way to avoid RoundUp is to eat organic food. All you mormodonnas out there — I know you’re cringing, thinking about that moment at the cash register of the local healthy foods store when they tally up how much organic food costs compared to how much you’re used to saving by eating conventional food. You want to get the best deals for your hard earned money, it is only natural. But what’s not natural is what’s IN the conventional food. Pay the farmer or pay the doctor.

And you have to watch out for one of the worst offenders…meat. When it dawns on you how much it costs to buy meat that’s worth a darn, you will begin to understand why eating it “sparingly” is not only healthy for your body but also for your wallet. Life is precious! If it wasn’t treated as precious (which costs money), you don’t want it. GMO corn and soy are cheap and plentiful, but studies show they cause severe depletion of manganese in the blood of animals that eat them. GMO means “Roundup ready” for all intents and purposes. Manganese deficiency has been linked to everything from anxiety to autism. (This is only one of the ways Roundup has been linked to anxiety).

Eat healthy fats. No, I’m not talking about avocado and olive oil (they’re ok but not as spectacular). I would urge you to find yourself the rare and valuable grass-fed lard and tallow. Lard is the fat of pigs – and if those little piggies have been munching grass in the sunshine their fat is going to be simply magical for your brain and everything else. Same goes for the fat of pastured cows, called tallow. I guarantee if you sizzle your next batch of eggrolls in some creamy white lard, your family’s brain cells will tingle with delight. Brains are composed of mostly saturated fat! This whole vilification of animal fats is a tool of the edible seed oil industry, beginning early in the 20th century. It’s reign of horror has got to end. Find a local farmer who sells pig fat and render it into lard yourself at home to save tons of money. YouTube will show you how!

Creamy white, home-rendered lard

Make a steady supply of broth. Women have known pretty much forever that nothing is more healing than broth. Learn how to make “bone broth” – that slow-simmered building block of life that gels when chilled and can truly repair guts. Give it to those kiddos when they’re sick but also use it to build gut/brain health.IMG_0455

There’s so much more that could be said about things like raw milk and fermented vegetables, but Mormodonna’s first wish for you is the courage to leave the cheap, polluted food behind and be able to commit to cleaner, healthier fare.

          “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.” ~ Malachi 1:11-13




Step #1: Buy a Smaller House


This Mormodonna knew from the get-go that if she was going to stay home and be a full time “cooker” (as her daughter calls her) and do other mom-stuff, she was going to have to sacrifice a big, roomy house full of brand new carpeting and matching leather everything and go for something that her great-grandmother would have recognized as normal. Our grandmas were no strangers to having to change out flooring one room at a time because that’s what they could afford. That explains why the orange shag in the front bedroom was a whole decade apart in style from the brown speckled linoleum underneath the oval rug in the guest bedroom.

Women counted their lucky stars if and when the family purchased a clothes dryer. Before then, they pinned the wet clothes up on the line strung from that rusty old pole we used to dangle from as kids and knock into on accident while playing tag in the backyard. If we had a sleeping bag to dry, Mom would send us across the street to Grandma’s house to spread it out on the clothes line.

Not only are our houses bigger than Great-Grandma’s, but they are chock-full of all the little servants we call appliances that do the work we no longer have the time or inclination for because we have “more important” work to do, outside of the home. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t love my clothes dryer. And I would riot in the streets if you took away my washer for any reason short of total societal collapse. But I decided I could live with a small house and the old-fashioned kind of happiness that is possible because we chose to live in one.

To get a small house, these days, you either have to find one built over 50 years ago or build it yourself from special plans. They don’t have cookie-cutter mini’s anymore in the new developments unless you are 55 and older. What’s nice about an older small house is that it tends to come with a lot more land than a new house does, which is great for growing that elusive commodity we know today as healthy food.

Think of all the things you can do with your time when you’re able to live off of only 1 income because your house payment is so darn manageable: you can be free to grow your food, pick your food, and cook your own food all by yourself…without any help from corporate America! Which means I can choose exactly what I want my family to take into their bodies and a lot of what I don’t. Goodbye laboratory ingredients. Hello to foods we can all pronounce and know where they came from.

It’s all possible from simply choosing the right house…to start with.

“You Can’t Spoil Porridge With Too Much Butter”

Ка́шу ма́слом не испо́ртишь – Russian Proverb

All my grandmother’s recipes had the word “oleo” in them. I used to wonder what the heck oleo was but since, to my 10-year-old mind, it sounded like the word “Oreo” I couldn’t help thinking that it had to be great. It wasn’t.

Oleo is short for oleo-margarine, a product born out of Napoleon III’s desire to have a butter substitute that could be used by the armed forces and the lower classes. The first margarines, beginning in 1871, were a combination of seed oils like cottonseed and the naturally harder animal fats. By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s and on into World War II, there was such a shortage of animal fats that margarine was made completely out of seed oils (what we call vegetable oils, even though they are not made of vegetables) – rapeseed (canola), soybean, cotton seed, sunflower seed, etc.

Oleo spelled heart disease for that particular grandma and her husband, who were the first in both of their family lines to suffer from heart attacks. They were part of a  growing trend in America, whose incidence of heart disease correlated with the increased use of margarine, shortening and other highly processed oils as a replacement for good, old-fashioned butter and lard from animals raised on pasture.IMG_0438

Butter is a mormodonna’ best friend. Grumpy husband? Slather butter on his everything. That child who seems to fight you on every little thing? That child needs some butter! There is a reason that there is the phrase “butter you up” – it means to put you in a good mood so that I won’t be afraid to ask you about something. Butter makes for cheerful people. A happy home is built on butter. Margarine, funny enough, is still used today by the military, prisons and the lower classes.

Scientifically, there is a reason for all that our foremothers knew by experience. Butter is America’s best, most easily absorbed source of vitamin A (carrots only contain pre-vitamin A). It contains vitamin E, lecithin (for proper absorption of fat), selenium and anti-oxidants, including cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is an anti-oxidant, as well as the foundation for a healthy endocrine system, since all your hormones are made using cholesterol. If you don’t have the cholesterol your body needs, stay tuned for mood swings! (For more information, checks out the Weston A. Price Foundation’s “Why Butter is Better“)

Put that butter on everything. You’ll stay fuller, longer and it will keep your blood sugar from spiking. In Mormodonna’s low-fat days, she would eat her oatmeal with skim milk and strawberries, and it would make her want to eat some french fries around 10am. These days, she soaks her oatmeal or brown rice overnight (to make it more digestible), cooks it in the morning and puts a nice pat of butter in there for “staying power.” No more 10am munchies; she can go all the way to lunchtime.IMG_0440

Brown rice porridge is a favorite around here, and since rice is one of the grains with the lowest amounts of phytic acid, it’s not always necessary to soak it overnight. Just put a cup and a half or so in the blender until the texture is like couscous. Then put a few tablespoons of butter in a pan with the blended rice, add a generous amount of whole milk (preferably raw), maybe add some water as well (that raw milk is expensive, you know), add a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla. Then whisk over medium heat until the porridge thickens, at which point you can turn the heat down to very low, stick the lid on and wait for the kiddos to be dressed and faces washed, ready for breakfast.

Once the porridge is in the bowl, add another big pat of butter and whatever else suits your fancy. You and the fam are on your way to a snack-free day…a three-square-meal day with that healthy fasting in between meals that we have forgotten is the ideal for most people.

“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” ~ Isaiah 7:15

Listen to Isaiah, mormodonnas…refuse the evil and choose butter!