The Great Saints of Old, we are told, made offerings of pure spirit to the gods, and certainly there are still people today writing poetry and hymns. But if you’ve scrolled past one too many well-meaning memes on your social network thinking “surely, empty platitudes superimposed over a photo of flowers is not really what the gods crave from me?” it might be time to think in more concrete terms. We can make offerings of dense matter to the gods, as well, and they certainly won’t begrudge us if we sample some of our offerings for quality-control purposes before they get to the gods.
A quick note: many articles about devotional cooking focus on seasonal recipes; that’s not what you’ll find here.
Chicken Soup to Honor the Mother
Save the bones and carcasses of any roast chickens you happen to eat, or find somewhere that sells the carcasses after cutting away the meat. If you do the latter, roast the carcasses on cookie sheets for 45-60 minutes before you simmer them. The secret to truly excellent chicken stock is to fill the pot to slightly above the brim with as many bones as you can cram in, then allow water to flow in to fill the spaces between. (As those of us who live busy lives can still allow the gods to fill those spaces in our lives where we have a moment of space to turn to Them.) Place on the stove, and simmer for twelve hours, never allowing the stock to come to a boil. Strain through cheesecloth.
There is actual scientific evidence to support the idea that chicken soup has healing properties. But being cared for by a friend has even more perfect healing properties. Pack your stock away in the freezer in four-cup portions. When you have a friend who is ill, thaw the stock and make it into soup by adding any of the following that your friend might enjoy: chunks of carrots, celery, and onions; cooked chicken; rice, noodles, or dumplings. Simmer until the vegetables are soft and the noodles, rice, or dumplings are cooked. Bring them soup in a carafe, either hot so they can eat it immediately, or chilled so that they can reheat it for their dinner. Gifts of Health and Healing: we are the Mother’s Hands in the world.
Remember that illnesses are not always straightforward and physical. If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, they may also appreciate a gift of soup, and remember that you can also honor the Mother by offering any kind or useful service to a friend who is struggling with illness (physical or mental, their own or that of a family member), whether it’s house cleaning, a few hours of babysitting, errands, or a ride.
Lemon-Meringue Pie Bites to Honor the Daughter
Teachers tend to be inundated with gifts around Daughter’s Day, but in fact the school year begins around the time of the Son’s Day and who wouldn’t like a lovely treat in the darkness just before Father’s Day? For something special, lemon meringue pie bites resemble bird’s nests and suggest the daughter’s season even in the depths of winter. Separate four eggs and then whip the egg whites (with an electric mixer! The gods do not ask us for desperately sore arms!) until they form soft peaks. Add ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, then add 1 cup sugar a tablespoon at a time as you continue to beat on high, until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Put the beaten egg whites inside an icing bag with an “open star” style tip, and on a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe miniature nests. Bake 10 minutes at 300F, reduce heat to 250 and bake for 10-20 minutes more, then turn the oven off, open the door slightly, and allow the nests to cool for one hour in the oven. When they are fully cool, spoon lemon curd into the nests.
Most schools have a lounge or workroom for the teachers where treats may be left; others allow treats to be left in the office. Be sure to include an index card with a list of ingredients to that teachers who follow a special diet know whether they can eat these treats!
You can also honor the Daughter by voting to support school funding measures in your town, if those are put to a referendum. And by remembering that the Daughter’s gifts are for everyone: when you hear someone dismissing inclusion measures and special education services, speak up, especially if you don’t have a child who relies on them.
A Harvest to Honor the Son
To the Son, we turn for comradeship, hunting, and harvest. There’s no theological reason for the association between the Son and pumpkin spice; it’s merely that pumpkin is ready for harvest in the fall. There is a strong theological justification for the association between the Son and labor unions, however. Not only because of the links between comradeship and solidarity, but also due to the fact that harvests in the modern world are brought to us by farm workers. It is no coincidence that one of the great saints of the Son in the modern world, Cesar Chavez, was the founder of the farmworker’s labor movement.
If there are workers on strike in your city, walking a picket line, a gift to them is an excellent offering to the Son. A loaf of bread can very quickly be turned into 10-12 sandwiches: buy two loaves of bread, a large jar of peanut butter and a large jar of grape jelly, a package of turkey, a package of sliced cheese, a small jar of mayo, and a package of lettuce. Presumably you don’t need me to tell you that the grape jelly goes with the peanut butter and not with the turkey. Wrap each sandwich individually, keep the PBJ sandwiches and turkey sandwiches separate so that you can offer people a choice, and then go to the picket line to hand them out.
You can also honor the Son by donating to strike funds as well as to any conservation organization or veterans’ support organization.
Zucchini Bread for the Father
There are always too many zucchinis, as anyone who knows anyone with a garden can attest, and not enough people who want them. There are always too many indigent defendants, and not enough public defenders. If you’ve ever known a person unjustly accused of a crime then you likely know how important public defenders are to the process of justice, and how frequently underappreciated.
Zucchini bread is extremely easy. Grate 2-3 zucchinis for 3 cups of shredded zucchini and drain in a colander. Mix 1 ⅔ cups sugar, ⅔ cup vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 eggs, 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and the grated zucchini in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Divide between two greased 8-inch loaf pans and bake for an hour at 350F. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pans, and cool for another hour before wrapping in plastic wrap and bringing to the public defender’s office.
You can also honor the Father by donating to bail funds, as people sitting in jail before trial simply because they are poor to raise bail money has absolutely nothing to do with justice.
Out-of-Season Gifts to the Bastard
Thanks to shipping, we are blessed with an abundance of out-of-season fruit in the cold days of late winter (when spring is already well advanced in parts further north.) Buy an assortment of melons and berries, plastic cups with lids, plastic forks, and some tape. Make a fruit salad and fill as many plastic cups as you can. Snap on the lids and tape a fork to the side of your makeshift package.
In many cities, you will find people on street corners and at highway entrances asking for help. Individuals without shelter are often forced to depend on nonperishable foods like granola bars and packaged snacks; fresh fruit is a rare treat, and your cups of fruit are unlikely to be refused! As the Bastard is the god of the outcast and disdained, all those who society considers out of place and out of season, you make an offering to the Bastard any time you offer help and kindness to the destitute.
Also likely to be welcomed: clean, new socks! You can also give people money; if you’re very worried that the money will be spent on alcohol, you can offer gift cards to the area grocery stores, but their decisions about how they spend money are between them and their own god.
Recall, if you like, the Great Saint of Chalion-Ibra, Lupe dy Cazaril, who was gifted a gold royal on the road as he returned from his years of slavery in the galleys, and remember that we never know what brought someone to their point of desperation.
To all my readers: the blessings of all the gods be with you in this festival season! As we are Their Hands in the world, so may all of us receive their blessings from one another in turn.