Do you believe in the importance of rituals? I do. I’m not talking about religious services necessarily but the repetitive actions that bind us to our history and humanity; the kind that help us stay grounded and present in our gadget-rich, consumer-driven, busy busy busy lives. Between shuttling kids around, being a loving partner, working, scaling the laundry mountain and trying to stay on top of life, it can be difficult to find a moment’s peace or a timeless place.
Although I am a feminist, I may make some who ascribe to this label upset when I say that my temple is my kitchen. Of all the rooms in my home, it’s where I feel most like myself. It’s the soul of my home and where I do my magic.
I’m not mixing up spells in a cauldron beckoning spirits…but I don’t think cooking is far from that.
When I wake up early, before the children or while sleep is still weighing heavy enough on their small bodies to prevent inevitable chaos, I begin my kitchen rituals. Magic making. Washing dry beans to prepare them for the week. Selecting the biggest and most aromatic bay leaves. Peeling garlic. These may seem like mundane tasks but I’m aware as the scents fill my kitchen and the ears of my children that I’m engaged in something other worldly. I’m beautifying and enriching our surroundings, my thoughts purify, prayers rise with the steam of simmering pots.
I’m creating a holy space.
As I knead my dough, pushing and folding the soft but resistant mass into the wooden board that I can honestly say I love like a friend, sentiments of thankfulness for life fill my heart. I feel connected to women; mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters who have made bread inside cramped kitchens, huts, and red clay ovens today and through the ages. Even though I’ve never met these women I know their lives because it’s mine, too.
The feel of the smooth dough brings me pride, especially as I remember how many failed loaves; the ones that never rose, tasteless, hard as rocks, I’ve been privy to. Anyone who has made bread regularly knows that it’s an acquired skill that will not be rushed. Much like the art of raising children, no set of written instructions can make up for catching a feel for it and cultivating a general state of awareness. Between the yeast’s first bath and the tap of your finger on a golden crust to determine done-ness, 3-4 hours may have lapsed. Believe me when I say I have shed tears over botched results.
But now as I carefully tuck my wishes between the flour, I smile and hope for bread success, confident but never certain as there always remains a bit of mystery and anticipation in the process.
The kitchen is where this mother heals not only herself but the children. Wash, peel and crush ginger into sticky honey. Lemon oil on my hands as I beg my girl to take just one more sip of warm. I slide the carrots, onions, and poor little chicken parts into the pot…close my eyes and silently ask for the fowl’s forgiveness “I hope you had a good life and dignified death, I acknowledge your sacrifice, please do me the honor of becoming soup amen.” Nervous, quiet giggling follows.
As I prepare the staples required for the week’s meals, I prepare myself and set the tone for my home. Much like cooking from a recipe, the days may seem repetitive and similar but contain within them the unknown. The unpredictable.
When I’m out in the world I feel modern, even fancy at times as I whiz around in my car tending to life’s demands. But in those mornings before the sun has become bright enough to flood the windows and my kitchen feels like a candlelit cave, I’m as ancient as any woman living or ascended and have access to their secrets, their wisdom, and of course, their magic.
About Bunmi Laditan
Bunmi is a mother, writer, and social media entrepreneur living in Montréal, Canada (by way of California). She has two girls ages 6 and almost 2.