Soul Food

I love food.  There is no denying that.  I love cooking it, smelling it, and eating it.  And in addition to that, I love feeding people.

I would be okay in my own mind saying that one way I show affection is by feeding people.  I come from a long line of food pushers.  And, might I add, a long line of marvelous cooks.  While not every dish that comes from our kitchens is an artistic masterpiece, they all feed the body and nurture the soul.  And no one leaves our homes hungry.

Laurie-Colwin

This last Mabon is the perfect example of these things.  It was my sister’s first time hosting my favorite Sabbat and the first time that I had seen her new house in person.

Mabon, for those that don’t know, is the second Harvest festival of the Witch’s Year.  This is a time of great abundance but also preparation.  Historically, our ancestors were probably at their busiest.  Food needed to be harvested and preserved for the long winter ahead and daylight was growing short.  Traditional foods are squashes, potatoes, poultry, apples, cinnamon, wine, mead, beer, bread, and various kinds of nuts.

We spent the afternoon gathered in my sister’s rustic kitchen.  Not once was there an angry word spoken. There was laughter and tears and forgiveness for old wounds.  There was chopping and slicing and stolen bites of apple.  Everyone was blood in that kitchen for an afternoon.  Everyone was an honored guest.  We were spell bound in the succulent haze of smells: herbs and spices mingling with the crispness of apples, the roasting meat, and the warmth of baking acorn squash.

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My grandmother’s recipe box and the women who taught me to love

We dined by firelight in the backyard, our table lit with candles and lanterns.  After a quick word and blessing of the season, we dug into the feast.  Never have I had a turkey so marvelously juicy.  We could have gone on for hours and I wouldn’t have tired of the variety of flavors.  But it wasn’t just the food that made the night.  It was truly knowing that every hand there had in some way helped pull the night together.

There is something so satisfying in the silence around a dinner table, the way the first bite of food dances across your taste buds.  I find myself hosting a lot of events and at every one that I cook for, I wait for that silence,  After the clatter of plates and silverware and serving utensils, I wait for the quiet that follows the first bite.  In that moment, I can distinctly feel the seams holding our company together.  The soul sighs contentedly at the good food.  And the heart?  The heart sips a glass of wine and is happy with the world.

I love the idea of opening a restaurant but there is a solid reason aside from logistics that I will probably never do so.  When I cook at home, when I throw seasonings around with nary a thought but a feeling, I can take all the time I want.  I pour my love into my food.  I imbue it with good will and joy.  There is no time restraint when I cook at home.

In a restaurant setting, there is.  I feel like, for the most part, the love of food must be sacrificed for time.  And that pains my heart.  And restaurants never seem to have that blissful silence brought on by soaring taste buds.

But to my main point.  I love food.  We recently had a weekend jam-packed with glorious food.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

We had spent Saturday moving furniture and cursing nearly crushed toes.  The demand for a night of drinking had been made and I knew that the promised reward of food for assistance moving furniture would have to be paid.  So, bored of all the normal things that we do for dinner, I turned to Pinterest.

What I found was the following recipe.  I have given the original and my changes.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Baked Penne Pasta

Ingredients:

6 strips of cooked bacon (Do more than six.  Trust me.)

1 lb of penne pasta, cooked and drained

2 c. shredded mozzarella

2 c. shredded cooked chicken (I cubed mine and used three to five chicken breasts)

1 15 oz. jar alfredo

1/2 c. ranch (No lie, I don’t measure anything.  And if I had to guess, I used 3/4 cup.  Do more than that.  A full cup will probably do.)

1.)  Heat overn to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray 13X9 inch pan.

2.) In a large bowl, stir to combine cooked and drained pasta, chicken (I seasoned mine with garlic powder, onion powder, and rosemary.  Again, I don’t measure anything so season it how you like it), Alfredo, and ranch.  Spread into pan evenly.

3.) Sprinkle chopped bacon and then sprinkle with mozzarella.

4.) Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly (I like my cheese a bit browned)

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Caution:  Super Delicious!

And voila!  It is delicious and cheesy and my soul was happy.  If everyone only takes one big bowlful, you can probably get eight bowls.  So, realistically, you can feed four really, really hungry adults.

A fair few of my friends are picky eaters.  So, anything that resembles a vegetable or mushrooms or even anything that looks like it might house such things is given the stink eye.  But they can hardly resist cheese and bacon.  It therefore comes as no shock that the entire pan was cleaned out the night I made it.  No hesitancy even though I like to sneak mushrooms, onions, and vegetables into almost everything.

Even though the night of drinking didn’t happen, everyone was full and happy.  And in the midst of a muddy floor, feathers from cushions floating all over, and a dining room that looked like it had seen Ragnarok, I got that moment of silence.

Until next time,

Eat the soul food, drink the wine, and love yourself.

With love,

Nicole

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