Together, we host Tarot by the Mouthful: a mouthwatering, multi-media culinary tour through the world of Tarot.
Sublime recipes. Soulful stories. Essays, videos, interviews and delicious surprises.
Join us every Sunday for a new installment — and get ready to sip, slurp, crunch and savor your way through the entire Tarot deck!
This week: Seven of Wands
Seven of Wands: After a victory, struggle arrives. This card symbolizes a challenge that must be overcome. Like the Five of Wands, this is conflict but here the figure stands alone, strong and ready to do battle. The Seven of Wands is the thrill of the competition, the willingness to stand up for what you believe in, and the triumph of the will against tremendous opposition. When someone pushes, push back. Assert yourself. Do not back away from a battle.
Kyle – Feel the fear
Feel the fear and do it anyway – that seems to be the spirit of the Seven of Wands. It’s a tough thing, that moment when we are faced with what twists us into the uncomfortable, when our souls, and sometimes literally our eyes, wish to look away, anywhere, but where the thing which we must do, is. Should we wish to grow, to learn, to disarm an illusion, we have to look, where all that lies.
I’m tasked, with the culinary perspective for these essays in Tarot by the Mouthful. For the Seven of Wands, I plumbed my mind, and library of food and cooking centric books and came up with nothing. I worked angles around this card for few days, searching to get some bite of a story, a historic hitch that worked for me to write about. I wanted a singular statement in cooking that some famous chef worthy of name checking threw over their shoulder while managing a stove in the heat of service, a phrase which has hence gone down in history and lore, and that I could use.
I can tell you that professional cooking is hard, getting better at it and constantly improving oneself in the midst of what it take out of one’s body and life, and the hours in the day, is harder. I can tell you that opening a restaurant is hard. I have watched many many friends endeavor at it. Whether it is with their own money, or others, the DOING of a chef opening a restaurant, versus the BEING of the chef that opened the restaurant, (which is what most of the public see) is incredibly demanding.
I can tell you that the line cook through accoladed celebri-chef are all the same, once one has spent enough time on the line, planning menus, plating, pushing staff and suppliers, or planning how it will all work (you hope) when it opens. Doing these things and more gives anyone who has lived through them a bulletproof look that rolls over into other aspects of their life. It cannot be taken away, and it never fades.
As I became more friendly with chefs many years ago, that look used to sway me to an uneasy place. At times, it flatly freaked me out. We would talk, the chefs and I, laugh, drink, compare notes and opinions, but until I understood it, that look (bulletproof and faraway is the best way I can describe it), they would suddenly see right through me to someplace else I had not gone. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
I guess that is the thing with that trade and probably others, but not many. When you move from a recipe at home to standing in one’s own small way in the midst of that history. The history of cookery. The history of how we first came together around a fire, the history of our grandmothers love and how things are supposed to taste, the history of the negotiation with the land and what we could pull forth from it and manage both sustenance and maybe just maybe deliciousness too. The history of ethnic heritage played out through flavors you are trying to not fuck up. Timing, chemisty, knowing it’s done with your nose first, backs and bodies all moving around each other aware and claiming their own space with respect and urgency combined. Tickets coming up and orders barked at you and muscle memory and mentors and heat. The humility of feeding people, and maybe, just maybe doing it in an exalted way. Feel the fear, and do what you fear. Do what you don’t wish to. Do it because it frightens you. Do it anyway.
Theresa – Bread is hard to make
“Bread is hard to make” my mother lamented as she punched the dough. Yet every week, there she was, pounding away on the old bread board. She made ten loaves a week along with biscuits, coffee cakes, and other baked goods. And every week, her hungry brood gobbled up every last morsel.
I remember watching her, sweat on her brow, bra straps sliding down her sausage-like arms, flour covering her apron. Seven of Wands in action. She was only 4’11” with major health issues yet she made bread without fail every single week. Sometimes she would curse the work involved and mutter under her breath.
But she did it anyways.
And her results? Magical. Although I have had bread from the so-called artisan bakers, nothing has ever topped hers.
I often wondered why she pushed herself so. Why she didn’t just buy the wrapped crap in the stores? Why on earth did she persist on making enough bread for an army when her heart could barely stand the heat of the kitchen?
It’s because she knew deep down inside that the challenge was worth it. That nothing else could compare to her effort, the sweat, the intention. Naw, that store bought stuff – it was made by machines. It had no soul.
The challenge is what made it real, rich, deep….and you cannot find that level of heart in the grocery store version.
I have tried valiantly to make bread but mine never comes close. I follow the instructions…I make sure the temperature is right. I do everything I am supposed to. Yet it’s never light, airy and chewy like hers was. Mine is hard, dense….the sign of a good effort without the skill of a true baking master.
The only time I ever made a perfect loaf of bread was the one time I made it for her. At the time, Mom had long stopped making bread because her health had become too fragile. She just couldn’t do the work anymore. It was too challenging.
“Making bread is too hard.” she said.
I brought my ingredients and did my best to knead that dough like she did. She watched over my work and gave me a few tips which I diligently followed. I’m not sure if it was her guidance or the fact that she had her home heated to 80˚ – but that bread rose like no bread I ever made. It still didn’t match hers but it was amazing. The pride I felt from making it for her was too big to describe.
And that was the last loaf of bread I made. Because she was gone soon after. Now for me, bread is too hard to make. Not the physical, the emotional part.
On cold winter days I think of her baking and ponder breaking out her bread board and giving it another go. Can I rise to the challenge? Will I hear her whisper, egging me on, nudging me to keep at it? Is it possible that I can push past the obstacles and make the perfect loaf? Can I channel the energy of the Seven of Wands and finally make this happen?
I’m not sure if I will ever be able to rise to the occasion.
Because bread is hard to make.
Mom’s bread recipe:
1 oz. compressed yeast
4 c. warm water or potato water (she used potato water – her version was potato flakes added to water)
1 tsp sugar
2 T. salt
3 T. melted lard
10 – 12 c. flour
Crumble yeast in 1/4 c. of the water. Let it stand until dissolved. Tot he rest of the water, add the lard, sugar and salt. Combine in mixtures. Add flour gradually and mxi well. Knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise until double in bulk. Knead down, and let it rise again. Shape into three loaves and place in greased pans. Let rise until doubled. Bake 45 minutes at 350˚ oven. Remove from pan and place on a rack until cool.
Theresa and Kyle
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2016
photos from personal collection and Jessica Kaminski
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