Reclaiming Ourselves – Food & Medicine: Part 3

I also know what it’s like to struggle to live day to day, and so I’m a believer in making the most of what you have. Exotic plants and ingredients are certainly alluring, but what’s the point of learning to use them if you can’t get hold of them, for whatever reason? It just makes sense to use what you already have or is readily available.

From Emma Kathryn

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Reclaiming Ourselves – Back To Basics: Food and Medicine.

… first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small.

From Emma Kathryn

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The world’s going to pot.

Just look around you. Literally, stop. For just a moment and take a look at everything that’s kicking off, all around the world.

Some problems are more dire than others, some more urgent, but it doesn’t really matter because everywhere  your glance may fall, there is some shit going down, some suffering or other, and then, to top it all off, is the destruction of the planet, of nature. Nobody can escape that!

And nobody really knows what to do. Governments don’t care. They may claim to, but every action they do shows the lie of their words. And what about the everyday person? What can one person do? Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do, not individually, and I fear that any efforts made now may be too little too late, though that’s not to say we shouldn’t make those efforts. We should definitely make those efforts, but small gestures are no longer enough. Drastic action is needed.

So what can we do as individuals in the face of all of the problems before us? What can I do in the face of these colossal problems? What can you do? How can our little efforts make any kind of difference?

No wonder humanity has fallen into a kind of hopeless apathy. And yet all hope is not lost, for are we not hopeful things? Even when the odds are stacked against us and failure is all but promised some small glimmer of hope remains. Is there any power, no matter how small, that we may claim for ourselves?

Perhaps there is, but first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small. And for those that would comment saying things like ‘Well, too little too late’, or ‘it’s not enough’, you may very well be correct. But whatever happens, the skills I speak about here will become increasingly important.

The Land

I know, I know, here I go again, banging on about connecting to the land, but I only mention it here because everything comes from that connection. You all know how I feel about that! But seriously though, get to know the lay of the land where you live. Make yourself familiar with the local plants and fauna. This is something that takes time, months, years, indeed there is always more to learn.

Food & Cooking

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Learning to cook from scratch is a vital skill for anybody to learn at any time. I include cooking here because so many do not know how to cook from scratch, hence why kitchen witchery has become a thing (I mean no disrespect either, but I see so many kitchen witchery articles that are just recipes). Indeed cooking is a kind of alchemy all by itself.

So why is cooking so important? I think it is one of the major ways in which we have lost some control over our lives. We’ve become reliant on cheap prepackaged food and in doing so we’ve forgotten the basics. So learn to cook from scratch. Learn how to make stocks, learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. Find out what’s in season, because food that’s in season will be cheaper to buy.

A word on sourcing food. There is a common misconception, here in the UK at least, that if you’re on a low-income, you can’t afford to eat well. Whilst I always say buy the best you can afford, organic fruit and veg is great, but it is often too pricey for those on tight budgets, so buying regular fruit and veg is more than fine. Check out local markets and if you go later in the day then there’s a good chance that their goods will be reduced, but still in perfect condition. Also check out discount stores. If you’re in the UK then retailers such as Aldi and Lidl are great for fresh and affordable food.

Foraging is another way to increase your food supplies. I know the idea seems pretty out there (who’d of thought it eh, foraging radical?), but there is so much that is edible. Nuts are good round about now. Sweet chestnuts, cob nuts and walnuts are just some that I forage for. Mushrooms are also good now, though I do urge anyone interested in finding wild mushrooms to learn to identify them properly! But there are so many foods that can be foraged, more than I have space to write here! This is where your knowledge of the local landscape becomes important.

Medicine

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Medicine is another area in which we have become dependent on capitalism. Now, when I talk about medicine in this instant, please do not think that I’m advocating self diagnoses, or that the remedies I might include here are for serious conditions. But, when it comes to those minor illnesses, coughs and colds and what not, well, pharmaceutical companies make a killing on selling us useless medicines. This part leads naturally on from food, because so much of what we might call natural medicine is also food.

I live in England, and for us, autumn and winter mean an increase in all of those annoying illnesses that whilst not fatal, are annoying and uncomfortable and generally make life that little bit harder. Learning to make your own natural remedies is a way in which you can ease the symptoms of whatever ails you and at the same time save some cash.

Coughs are annoying as hell and can be painful. When you buy cough medicine from the pharmacy, all you’re really doing is buying something that doesn’t cure the cough nor the cause of it (the cough does that itself) but only soothes the symptoms. Cough medicine is basically sugar syrup. That’s it. So making your own is cheaper and better for you. Simply layer lemon and garlic (you can leave out the garlic if the taste isn’t for you, but garlic is such a potent ingredient it is well worth adding) in a jar and pour honey over until it covers, and that’s it! Keep it in the fridge. I always like to make two batches so that way I can add a shot or two of brandy or rum to one of the jars. This I’ll take in the evening or if I know I haven’t got to drive.

Colds are a pain too, especially the ones where you feel like you can’t breathe. Like coughs, the medicine you buy for colds only eases the symptoms. For colds, eucalyptus and peppermint are your friends. Make a chest rub by blending equal amounts of beeswax and coconut oil and adding drops of essential oil. Now, I do like mine quite strong, but add the oils drop by drop until you are happy with the scent. I make candles using eucalyptus oil and let them burn. Ginger is good for colds too and you can make a syrup just like the honey and lemon one, only including ginger. Make ginger tea, and if you like the taste, then candied ginger makes the perfect lozenge to eat when suffering from a cold.

But it’s not just illnesses where home medicines can be useful. There are no end of minor accidents that occur in everyday life, and for a lot of those, our response is to put on a cream, or pop some pain killers. Mugwort ointment is great for skin complaints from eczema to burns. Mugwort grows as a weed and is real easy to use. I use it in ointment form (you can watch my video here) and I drink it as a tea to ease menstrual pain. It is an abortive herb so it does cause the uterus to contract, bringing on menstrual bleeding, so take care if you’re pregnant or trying.

There is so much information available nowadays in this area, too much to write about here, but my point in writing is this. Let’s try to become less reliant on the system that we find ourselves trapped within. There’s nothing radical about the information here, nothing new. But it is these mundane efforts, combined and multiplied that will help wean us off the system that is Capitalism. It is by starting small and working upwards that we progress, in all things. In martial arts, you don’t get into the ring for a fight on your first day. No. You start with learning where to put your feet. Basic, so small a detail that you’d think it would be so insignificant, but footwork is the bread and butter of fighting and is the difference between hitting and getting hit. And so learning, or rather re-learning the basics, those forgotten skills like feeding and healing ourselves is a small step on the path to reclaiming ourselves.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


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Radical Beginnings

“… keep going. We are in this together.”

From Niki Ruggiero

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you turn on the news? Or look at social media? Or look out the window? Everything is awful, it’s getting worse, and mainstream liberals keep telling us if we just drive a Prius, or bring our own bags to the store, or “lean in” we can be part of the change we hope to see in the world.

It’s lies. All lies. We cannot buy our way out of this mess. Our individual actions are not to blame for the systemic crumbling of our freedoms and the ravaging of our planet. Large corporations engage in and promote the very things that we are being asked to manage. We are told to reduce/reuse/recycle; corporations continue to make things disposable, unfixable, and wrapped in wasteful packaging. We are told to eat more veggies, but our soil is poisoned, as is our water; food “deserts” are very real; and ingredients companies know are toxic are included in our food. We are told to drive less, but car companies refuse to decrease gas consumption in vehicles, oil companies get massive tax breaks, and few cities are developing true community-wide public transportation systems. And so on.

But we cannot just throw all efforts into the wind and stop giving a fuck. We still have our individual agency. Sure, not all of us can be Rhyd Wildermuth or Dr. Conjure. Where does one begin? If you’re reading Gods & Radicals, you’re likely ten steps ahead of most people. We all started somewhere. One step led us to another and another.

I didn’t always identify as an anti-capitalist. I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough to make positive change in this world. Yet, I look back at my life and I realize that the small steps I took led to bigger steps, and that this is possible for the people in our lives who might not yet identify as radical.

Below are a list of actions and choices that can lead to other steps. Some of these are relevant to some people, some are out of reach for others. Some of us do some of these things out of necessity, for others certain of these items might be life changing. This is not a complete list, but there is no complete list. As we saw with the popularity of Rhyd’s magical article “Garlic Bread of the Revolution,” there is a strong desire among us to begin where we are. Below is an incomplete list of ways to inspire you to begin!

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Read new literature – explore writers from other parts of the world; ask your favorite writers who they read
Use and support libraries
Walk/bike/utilize and support public transportation
Own less stuff
Share tools/start a tool library
Buy what you can locally
Homeschool/Unschool and/or support alternative forms of education in your community

Get healthy and strong, inside and out
Find help for your trauma
Join a mutual support group
Learn to shoot
Learn a martial art

Use cloth menstrual products and/or menstrual cup
Use cloth diapers
Homebirth and/or support midwives
Breastfeed
Babysit for a working family/babysit for meetings so working families can attend
Use cloth toilet paper
Compost
Grow your own food
Support Community Supported Agriculture/utilize or support community gardens
Share land
Share housing
Work for equitable housing
Host a clothing swap
Make your own beauty supplies
Learn first aid
Make your own food
Teach someone to cook

Support artists/crafters/thinkers/organizers
Support trans rights and inclusion
Support Black Lives Matter
Support prison abolition
Support the demilitarization of our police forces
Support indigenous rights and decolonization
Support disability rights

Practice polytheism, Paganism, witchcraft – remember that other religions also have radical communities within them
Cast spells for the overthrow of oppressive systems
Cast spells for liberation
Cast spells for the protection of people on the front lines
Cast spells for the protection of people supporting those on the front lines

Network with other like-minded folk, especially those engaged in projects different from yours
Engage in mutual aid whenever possible
Amplify voices that might not otherwise be heard
Be quiet and listen to voices that are different from your own

Judge less, practice more

If you have, GIVE
If you need, ASK

Many of these things do not look radical at all. Plenty of non-radical people do some of these things. Engage those people, because they are one step closer to being radical than they (or you) might think.

Most important of all: get rid of “all or nothing” thinking and start where you are. For those of you doing a few, some, most, or all of these things: keep going. We are in this together.


Niki Whiting Ruggiero

is a witch, polytheist, and mother of three.


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Future Gardening

“In their sharing to me and my sharing to my grand-daughter (or another heart-friend) we can recreate the right dialogue between ourselves and Earth, ourselves and our tiny household where we are rooted.”

From Judith O’Grady

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It’s nearly Spring in Canada!

My son and I garden together—- he is interested in vegetables, I am interested in herbals and wildlife support. First thing every Spring is starting plants from seed. Lot of tomatoes (11 kinds this year); many, many Sunflowers because the squirrels eat them as soon as we plant them. But for me the challenge is planting and re-planting the things that don’t germinate well or that don’t grow well—- I can get Ephedra to come up but I’ve never gotten it to grow over a couple of inches; I can’t get Roseroot to germinate (this year I’m buying plants as well); I keep putting in Foxglove but it hasn’t overwintered yet…..

I’m growing Northern Medicinals and they can be hard. But after you have Oregano all over the place (it spreads, I give it away, it spreads), Thyme in between the stones in the path, Parsley overwintering, and Basil every year in the tomato tubs it’s the next challenge. And there’s a purpose to it; medicinal herbal preparations used to be what we had and they may be that again. I’ve made teas and dried kitchen herbs for years and now I’m feeling ready to try extracts and elixirs. And Magical Preparations from folklore:

This could be viewed as a raised bed with strawberries backed by huge invasive weeds.

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Or it might be Mullen behind the strawberries: used by settlers as toilet paper, excellent for smudge, contributing to lung comfort, and the base of ‘Witches Candles’.
So I grow it or, more exactly, keep it in where it pops up. It’s a biennial, like Parsley, meaning that it grows the first year as leaves and the second it makes seeds. Mullen stalks are very tall, flower yellow in progression, and then dry out.

I collect them up and cut the tops into manageable pieces, smacking the little black seeds out of the stalks as I do.

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A dedicated thrift-store frying pan to melt the collected candle ends in and coat the outsides of the stalks et voilà! Witch candles as referenced in lore.

I always find this delightful—- I read about something, I look into it, I try it out……. then when it works I feel the broken chain between me and my ancestral past clicking back into being, connecting me to an awareness and skill-set which is now mine (tiny bit by tiny bit) and I can use and then pass on for myself.

The same sequence follows for other things. I read about yesteryear’s children looking forward to drinking ‘Elderflower Cordial’ in the Spring. I prepare (for ‘prepare’ read ‘pick off the bugs’) and soak the flowers, follow the old-timey recipe, and taste history.

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The old lore works—- the handsome guy who plays the standing harp puts in a special request for the ‘Auntie Night-Mare’ tea because it really helps him to get to sleep.
I work out how to send someone ‘Two Sleep’ after the Farmer’s Market closes for the season.

After a while I have to explain that Camomile has to be picked and dried as it flowers, scrap by scrap, and that the year’s production of Camomile is finite. Camomile can also teach you that startling difference between ‘edible’ and ‘palatable’— don’t put a flower in your mouth because you can drink the tea.

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The nice older couple ask if I’m planning anything new because they’ve already drank all the different selections; we plan out a blend based on their
preferences……

At the end of growing season last year I made Purple Basil vinegar with success and (in a different time frame) found an all-glass, good sized, double boiler in the thrift store. The Horehound came back gang-busters for its second summer (that plant family with the square stems, pretty reliable) and I want to make Horehound cough drops —- it is historical and doesn’t seem like it will be too hard as a start.

Also Arnica and Calendula ointment….. then Boneset and Comfrey (don’t eat those, readers)—- I could paint the ointment on a Mullen leaf, fold it over, and have a ready-made bruise dressing.

Gradually as my Grand-daughter grows up I will become more skilled and I may finally grow Ephedra and Roseroot with success. There’s no end of things to find find out and try and there are many Cunning Wort-Doctors more knowledgeable and proficient than myself to learn from. In their sharing to me and my sharing to my grand-daughter (or another heart-friend) we can recreate the right dialogue between ourselves and Earth, ourselves and our tiny household where we are rooted.

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If she’s interested or if there’s someone else who wants the undertaking and if the World doesn’t end by fire or plague she can, since she will know where everything is in the yard and how to make the things, hopefully trade Medicinals for food.


Judith O’Grady

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is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).


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Garlic Bread of the Revolution

According to a former lover, I make a garlic bread so good that “it could start a revolution.”  It’s pretty damn good, I’ll admit.  And maybe it could.

Cooking is kinda revolutionary in its own right.  It shouldn’t be–it’s something humans have been doing for thousands of years.  But we’ve all become alienated from a lot of the things humans have done lately, and there’s no better place to start recovering this than the kitchen.

Besides, cooking is pretty close to witchcraft. So, I’m gonna tell you how to make my garlic bread, and give you a little revolutionary history and theory behind some of the ingredients.

First, let’s start with what you’re gonna need. Ingredients don’t have to be organic, ’cause I’m assuming you’re probably as poor as I am and most of the people I know. Organic food, at least in the United States, is so much more expensive than other stuff that it’s just not for ‘the poor.’ We should change that sometime, seriously.  But ’till then, get what you can, okay?

It’ll still turn out awesome.  You’ll need

  • One loaf of thick-crusted bread, preferably sourdough.
  • 1/4 pound unmelted, salted butter (not margarine)
  • An entire head of fresh garlic.
  • some Parsley (must be fresh)
  • Oregano (can be dried).

Got all that?

Now, you’ll also need a really sharp knife, so get yourself the best knife sharpener (or serrated), an oven set to 350 degrees F (175 C), a small bowl, and some time. Cooking takes time, which you maybe don’t have a lot of because you have to work to survive. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

The most important thing you need to know about this recipe is DO NOT MELT THE BUTTER.  You’re gonna want to soften it, but don’t let it melt until the whole thing is in the oven. And don’t replace any of the ingredients if you want to make ‘my’ garlic bread.  You can really do whatever you want (please do!), but it’s no longer this garlic bread, it’s something different.


Step One: Soften the butter.

This is best done by putting it in a bowl at room temperature beforehand.  It won’t go bad. The goal is to make sure that it’s soft enough to mix but not melted, otherwise the fat and liquid in the butter separate.

Step Two: Peel & Chop the Garlic

You have fresh garlic, right? Not powdered or granulated and definitely not ‘garlic salt,’ right?  Awesome!

Peel at least half a bulb of garlic, between 5-10 cloves. You can use a fork to crush each clove slightly which makes it peel easier.  Then, take all your peeled garlic and chop it finely.  Use a heavy knife with a decent blade.

Put all that garlic in the bowl with the butter.

Step Three: Rinse and Chop the Parsley

You want about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. It’s a crucial ingredient for this, not a garnish, not just for color.  Run a handful under cold water, squeeze it out, and then chop it as finely as you feel like doing so.  The smaller the pieces, the more distributed the flavor, but also the more likely the whole thing will turn green.

Add the parsley to the bowl of garlic and butter.

Step Four: Add Oregano, mix, and wait a bit

Add a large pinch or more of oregano and then stir the whole thing until it’s soft and well mixed.  I usually use a fork for this, as it cuts the butter a little bit, so if it’s not quite soft enough you can use brute force to mix it.  Don’t get impatient and try to soften the butter by other means (microwave, magic, blowtorch)–melting ruins the whole thing.

Now, wait a bit.  You can totally do other stuff while waiting, like make a salad or pasta or read the rest of this essay. You want the fat in the butter to have a little time to absorb the flavors from everything else.

While you’re waiting, let’s talk about two of the ingredients, the Bread and the Butter.  If you’re impatient, Steps Five, Six, and Seven are a bit further down.


Peasant Bread’s an Art

If you got a thick crusted bread like I suggested, you probably bought an ‘artisan’ bread. “Artisan” bread became sort of a ‘thing’ in the United States about ten years ago.  They’re thick-crusted breads, usually with only three or four ingredients, and take on characters of taste because of the way they’re baked and the age of the yeast.

‘Artisan’ bread is really just peasant bread, though. It’s a lot more similar to what bread was like several hundred years ago than what it is now, all soft and squishy, pre-sliced and wrapped in petrol-plastic.

The pure white bland stuff we usually have now requires heavy refining of the flour and removal of all the fibrous parts of the grains.  Removing so much of the plant also removes most of the micronutrients available, which is one of the (but not the only) reasons why factory-produced flour is now enriched.

Bread is, at its most basic, flour, water, and yeast.  Flour and water are pretty easy to understand, but the alchemy behind bread is the yeast, particularly with artisan breads. Many ‘artisanal’ breads use what are called ‘starters.’  These are bits of dough set aside and let to age, often with more water or milk added to help the yeast have more food.  The next time bread is made, this ‘starter’ creates the foundation of that loaf, and another small portion is reserved for the next loaf.  This process also cultures the dough, adding certain flavors which are impossible to get without a starter.

To get yeast now, we usually purchase little foil packets of dry yeast granules.  Before, though?

Before the advent of yeast culturing, wild yeast fermentation was used (knowingly or not) to attract yeasts (then thought of as spirits) into the wort. The brewers would often leave their brewing vessel in a special hut, uncovered, and say prayers over the brew. When the brew started to foam, they knew the spirit had entered. This wild yeast fermentation process was hit and miss, as sometimes a bad flavor (or spirit) would get into the ale, and it had to be thrown out.

Around the 15th century, some of the brewing monks started to catch on to the way the angels (yeasts) were working. They found that if they used the same wooden spoon to stir their cooled wort, the same good spirit resulted. This technique was also used by the latter day Vikings, but they used oak staves carved with runes. The reason why these tools worked their miracles was that yeast fermentation cultures would live in the wood. Even when the spoon or rune was dried, the yeast culture could live dormant in the wood until the next use.

The same process worked for both bread and beer.

Yeast will grow naturally in moist, warm enclosed areas where the yeast has something to feed it.  It also survives better in porous organic surfaces than it does on sterile, impermeable surfaces. So our modern obsession with plastic, stainless steel, and other non-porous surfaces mean we need external sources of yeast. Most modern things require a trade-off.

Bread Takes Time

Bread baking requires a lot more  than just buying a packet of yeast, letting the dough set out a few hours, and then baking.  What it requires most of all is time.

We have this idea, inculcated more from Media than from historical sources, that industrialisation has liberated us–particularly women–from the inconvenience, hard work, and time commitment required for household tasks like baking and cooking.

We should, first of all, get rid of the idea that cooking is a woman’s task.  Women were relegated to household work during the birth of Capitalism because they’d lost all other access to their means of production. The so-called “Nuclear Family” is a new idea, and it had more to do with keeping workers in line than it ever did with anything ‘traditional.’

How much time do you have to cook?  If you’re working 40 hours a week, probably not much. The 8-hour workday is never just 8 hours. It requires you to wake up early, feed yourself, commute to work, feed yourself on lunch (which is usually not paid), commute home, and unwind from work.

That leaves 6 hours left, assuming 8 hours of sleep.  But by the end of a shift, most people are pretty exhausted. And if you’ve got kids, you’re not getting much else done.  If you’re single, it’s also hard; you have to do all the work to keep yourself healthy, well-fed, well-rested and sane on your own.

But if you have a partner who can do some of that stuff for you, you might be okay. That’s where ‘housewives’ come in, a person who uses some of their time to help the person working maintain their existence as both human and worker. Cooking dinner, washing clothes, –all of those things you can’t really do for yourself after selling your own labor/energy to an employer (called the means of reproduction) are uncompensated in Capitalism.  From Silvia Federici’s “Wages Against Housework,”

In the same way as god created Eve to give pleasure to Adam, so did capital create the housewife to service the male worker physically, emotionally and sexually – to raise his children, mend his socks, patch up his ego when it is crushed by the work and the social relations (which are relations of loneliness) that capital has reserved for him. It is precisely this peculiar combination of physical, emotional and sexual services that are involved in the role women must perform for capital that creates the specific character of that servant which is the housewife, that makes her work so burdensome and at the same time invisible

For couples of any combination of gender, such tensions remain. In every relationship I’ve been in, the person who is working more (sometimes myself, sometimes the other) relies heavily on the other to keep him alive and sane. For every successful ‘worker,’ there’s someone else propping them up.

Of course, you could always go to a restaurant (you won’t get this garlic bread there, though).  In fact, restaurants sprung up in popularity at the same time as industrialisation as an auxiliary function. Don’t have someone to cook for you? You can pay someone else to do it, trading some of your money in exchange for a little more time.

That’s why you’re buying the bread for this recipe, by the way, and not baking it.  You don’t have the time to bake it yourself, and probably don’t know anyone skilled enough to make it for you.


Step Five: Slice the Bread, then butter the slices

You don’t want to slice the bread all the way through, by the way.  The hard crust, especially at the bottom of the loaf, makes for a natural ‘wrapping’ for this, and will also help keep the whole thing together. Slice into the loaf no more than 3/4’s of the way down, and repeat this throughout the loaf, making 8-12 slots.  Think ‘accordion’ or ‘fan.’   Don’t worry about precision; we’re not doing science, we’re doing magic.

Most people usually just slice a loaf in half and butter both sides. My way is better–you’ll see!

Now, take a spoon or knife and slather the garlic butter mixture into each gouge you’ve cut.  Distribute it evenly like the good communist you are, and any leftover can be added to the top.


War-Butter

You know how butter is made, yeah?  Cream from cow’s milk is churned repeatedly, adding air and breaking up the fat until most of the liquid (‘buttermilk’) can be removed. What remains solidifies as the churning continues, and it’s mostly fat.

Butter in the United States tends to have a lower fat-to-water ratio than butter in Europe, and also tends to have dyes in it to turn it yellow because of the quality of the milk.  Milk takes on specific characteristic of the land where the cow lives through the grass it eats, which is why milk from Ireland tastes different from milk from France, and why the cheeses made in either place have differences in flavor impossible to replicate elsewhere.  In the United States, though…well, keep reading.

Industrialisation changed a lot of the way we create and consume butter and cow’s milk.  Before industrialisation, we waited for the cream to rise to the top of a vat of milk naturally, a long process.  Eventually, machines which would separate the fat faster were developed, as well as machines which would do the churning for us.

Ever thought about 2% and ‘skim’ milk? The fat from cream is what makes butter. Removing most of it produces ‘whole milk,’ and all of it produces ‘skim milk.’  You might like like skimmed milk (I don’t), but either way, it’s worth knowing that 100 years ago, you couldn’t get anyone to drink the stuff. 

Butter-and-CanonsActually, it was considered ‘waste,’ a by-product of cream and cheese production. But War and the science of “Chemurgy” came to the rescue.

“World War II successfully reincarnated skim milk from a locally utilized byproduct into one with national and international appeal. Skim milk entered World War II before American soldiers did. The U.S. secretary of agriculture asked for expanded production from dairy farmers in July 1941, months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dairy products quickly became essential to the lend-lease and war relief programs. Whereas evaporated milk was the preferred relief food during and after World War I, dried milk powder’s transportability and long shelf life gave it the favored spot in the lend-lease formulary. By 1941, the federal government asked for 200 million pounds of dry skim milk powder for America’s allies. Dried skim milk manufacturers struggled to keep pace with the unprecedented demand.”

You may be old enough to remember a time that skimmed milk was cheaper than whole, maybe not. But through marketing, particularly on ‘diet’ concerns, skim milk is considered an equal product to whole, even ‘healthier.’

Ruminating on Corn

There’s something else important about industrialised dairy production you should know, though.  Since the logic of the Capitalist is to increase production while decreasing cost, and in this case the ‘producer’ is a cow, certain ‘technological advances’ have arisen to ensure that cows produce as much milk as possible with the least amount of cost.  Unfortunately, like many other Capitalist attempts to increase productivity, they’ve got some huge side-effects.

In the 1980’s, a recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBST, was developed.  It’s a hormone that  keeps mammary cells from dying, and so increases the amount of milk a cow can produce long past when it might normally have stopped lactating.  The United States approved its use in 1993, so it’s been around for 23 years. It’s been banned in Australia, Canada, and the European Union since 2000, though.

In the USA, milk coming from cows treated with hormones carries a label from the FDA stating,

“No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows.”

Whether or not you trust the government on this one, there’s something worth noting. Increasing the amount of milk a cow produces often leads to ‘mastitis,’ or infections of the mammary glands.  Whether or not the pus from those infections ends up in industrialised milk is impossible to tell, but such infections are part of the reason why antibiotics are used in dairy production.

The other reason, though? Cows are rarely fed grass any longer. Instead, they’re fed grain and corn, despite the fact that they actually can’t digest it:

Cows see very little grass nowadays in their lives. They get them on corn as fast as they can, which speeds up their lifespan, gets them really fat, and allows you to slaughter them within 14 months.

The problem with this system, or one of the problems with this system, is that cows are not evolved to digest corn. It creates all sorts of problems for them. The rumen is designed for grass. And corn is just too rich, too starchy. So as soon as you introduce corn, the animal is liable to get sick…

…You start giving them antibiotics, because as soon as you give them corn, you’ve disturbed their digestion, and they’re apt to get sick, so you then have to give them drugs. That’s how you get in this whole cycle of drugs and meat. By feeding them what they’re not equipped to eat well, we then go down this path of technological fixes, and the first is the antibiotics. Once they start eating the [corn], they’re more vulnerable. They’re stressed, so they’re more vulnerable to all the different diseases cows get. But specifically they get bloat, which is just a horrible thing to happen. They stop ruminating.

So, industrial dairy production affects the cows and requires antibiotics and other technological fixes to sustain it. And regional differences don’t appear when the cows are fed on the same diet (corn, grain) everywhere.

Despite all that, though, you gotta use butter for this Garlic Bread.  It won’t taste good, otherwise, trust me.

Besides, Margarine is just as problematic–you don’t hear of anyone making ‘home-made’ margarine for a reason.  You can’t. While butter existed before industrialisation, you probably don’t know anyone who can hydrogenate, fractionate, or interesterificate in their kitchen.

But don’t melt the butter, okay?  It’s the most important part.


Step Six: Bake The Garlic Bread

Put the loaf (slathered with butter) onto a baking sheet on the top rack of your oven.  The oven should be about 350 degrees.

You’re gonna want this in there for between 15 minutes to about a half hour.  I’m not gonna give you a precise time, because, like I said, magic, not science.  You’ll know it’s ready by looking at it.

Let’s talk about the other three ingredients while we wait for that to bake, yeah?


This Shit Grows in the Dirt

Herbs like parsley and oregano are pretty damn awesome, and usually have other fun affects besides just flavoring. For instance, parsley. Others can talk about the magical affects of it, but as a cook I can assure you that it’s too awesome to be just a garnish.  Parsley tends to balance acidity, and has a signficant flavor of its own that gets utterly lost when it’s dried.  The amount of parsley we’re putting in the garlic bread is about 4 tablespoons finely chopped. It’s pretty crucial to the taste.

Now, the Oregano is actually a little better dried, especially since we’ll be cooking this.  Fresh herbs are typically better used at the end of cooking as the meal is cooling down.  Basil’s a good example–fresh basil loses its flavor after it’s been cooked.  I almost never use dried basil, by the way–it has an oddly sweet, almost tequila-like taste that doesn’t mesh so well with most foods.

So, question though–where you gonna get these two herbs? Probably at the grocery store, right? Let me offer you a sigh of solidarity.  That parsley’s probably gonna cost you $1 to $1.50 for a large bundle that you won’t use all of unless you’re making tabbouleh later.  And the oregano? Like $7 or $8 dollars for a one ounce jar if there’s no bulk herb section in your store.

Here’s a tip, though.  You know that area in the grocery store where all the jarred spices are? IGNORE IT.  Instead, go find the ‘ethnic’ or ‘mexican’ food section (and grumble angrily, like I do, about how ridiculous these labels are).

Wait–are those…spices? Herbs? Why are they so cheap? Like, $2 for something that would cost you $8 one aisle over?  There must be something wrong with them, right?

Nope.  Not at all.  In fact, the ones in the non-clueless-person section are usually a bit better.  The grocery store’s just betting that you’re so alienated from cooking and food production that you’ll accept these ridiculous prices.  Herbs grow in the dirt.  Actually, almost all plants do. But because we in industrialised, urban settings aren’t anywhere near actual farming, we have less context and are more willing to accept what is sold to us.

I’ll actually tell you my own story on this. 16 years ago, I lived in a pretty awesome house with this really cool, beautiful evergreen-looking bush by the front door. Anyway, I was making dinner with a friend. I went shopping, returned home, and started preparing stuff when he showed up.  I pulled out one of the things I’d bought and he starts laughing.

“You fuckhead,” he says. (yeah, he was a really close friend).  “How much did you pay for that?

“Three dollars,” I said, suddenly quite concerned.

“You paid $3 dollars for 4 sprigs of rosemary when you’ve got a massive bush of it right outside your door?”

“Wait,” I said, confused.  “Isn’t that, like, ornamental rosemary or something?”

I actually took the organic sprigs I’d bought to the bush and compared them, hoping against hope I hadn’t spent at least $30 that year on an herb that grew literally out my front door.  But…yup.  I’d been had.

Parsley and oregano are both really easy to grow.  In fact, they do better being mostly left alone, and growing in poor soil conditions rather than rich.  But in urban settings, we have very little access to growing spaces and trade our time (in wages) to purchase something that grows happily, easily, and rather abundantly in dirt. However! With enough connection to a place, and some forethought, you can actually plant quite a bit of the stuff in places no one will touch it.  It’s called Guerrilla gardening,  and it’s a lot of fun.

The garlic is, of course, really important here. You’re using a lot of it for a reason–it’s garlic bread, after all. And by the way, it’s not going to be completely cooked through when it’s done.  It’ll still be a bit sharp, soft but not mushy.

I, uh,  hope you like garlic. I should warn you, you’re gonna smell like it the next day.  It comes out your pores, will be on your breath no matter how much you brush your teeth.

But that’s okay, right?  Except of course that some people will find it offensive, because the smells that the human body emanates have become generally ‘offensive.’  That was another long industrialised process, but I won’t go into that here.  My suggestion? Share this bread with people you really like, so you’ll all smell like garlic.

Now, ready?


Step Seven: Pull it out of the oven and eat that delicious revolt

Garlic BreadIt should be pretty hot when it comes out of the oven, so be careful, yeah?  Also, rather greasy. We did, after all, put 1/4 pound of butter in there.

Set it on a cutting board and once it’s cooled off enough, slice it down the rest of the way and serve it.  It’s damn awesome with pasta or salad.  Everything sorta fuses together, adding a extra flavor that wasn’t there.

Be warned, though.  Both garlic and parsley have this funny affect on the stomach; both speed digestion a bit, so you might find this weird thing happen where three hours later you want to eat whatever was leftover.  It’s kinda magical.

While you’re eating it, consider the history of the ingredients and their relationship to Capitalism, as well as what you don’t have access to because of Capitalist social relations.

Those herbs we used? They should be free, but most of us don’t have access to land to grow them. Same with the garlic–it grows quite well in most soils, and you eat the part that’s underground.

So much now goes into the creation of butter and other dairy products (like antibiotics and hormones) that it’s quite a moral choice to abstain from eating it. But taste that? That’s something people have been eating for thousands of years. In India, a type of clarified butter (ghee) is considered sacred and medicinal.  Capitalist dairy production, though, is awful.

And bread.  Feel free to get a bit grumpy about paying high prices for a bread that peasants made, often communally. In fact, there are lots of activities that are more time-efficient when done with others (like cooking large meals, baking, gardening, child care, etc. etc.) that we rarely do together any longer. Many of these activities are outsourced to Capitalist enterprises (like artisan bakers) who pay their workers less than the amount you pay for the bread.

Get a little grumpy, sure.  But also, you taste that? The deep earthy mix of parsley and garlic infused into the butter, how the whole thing tastes absurdly light and smooth despite being full of fat and carbs?  Smell how you almost get a little drunk on the garlic, how your body seems to warm in sensuous desire with each bite? How you don’t want it ever to end?

That feeling? Pure desire, pure enjoyment, intoxication of senses and a certainty that the world should have much more garlic bread in it, and a lot less useless harm and unnecessary sorrow?

That’s kinda what revolution is like.

Enjoy!


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch, and shirtless selfies occasionally seen on his FB. and also his Instagram


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