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Cookbook Reviews: The Wicca Cookbook + A Magikal Mushroom Recipe For Halloween

And now, to dispel your wildest Halloween assumptions (sorry). "No hard and fast rules exist in Wicca," begins the Introduction to the second edition of The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual and Lore by Jamie Wood and Tara Seefeldt. "It is not based on a degree or a set of beliefs but rather on a practice of aligning oneself with the natural forces of life." And so perhaps that absence of a set of prescribed just-tell-me-what-to-do beliefs is precisely why we tend to jump to conclusions and call everything labeled "Wicca" that crazy broom and cauldron sort of witchcraft.

Not that the authors shun the word witchcraft. Using the "W" word is just fine with them, though Wood and Seefeldt also encourage terms like "nature-based religion" or the "Old Religion" when referring to Wicca. Whatever spells you'd like to occasionally cast are fine too, as long as you follow their spell casting rules (which include questioning whether the spell is absolutely necessary, and whether it will harm anyone). And you know, those sun bread (yeasted sunflower seed bread) and dandelion wine recipes hardly sound like frightening tastes of our culinary heritage.

The reissue of The Wicca Cookbook is the tenth anniversary edition, promising new recipes and new lore. And while a book with a sensationalist title (as simply the word Wicca has become, deserved or not) could be rife with special effects, this is a solid, refreshingly historic view with revised Middle Ages recipes. Yes, there are those tips on casting a spell in the Introduction. But the well-researched recipes and their historical relevance are really interesting reads, and hardly in a dry, academic sort of way. There is ale bread and rose hip wine to be made, after all.

Some of the recipes are historic tidbits made with ingredients that could be tricky to procure (the elderflower for that chicken, the day lilies for Lilith's lily fair soup) unless you happen to have your own garden. But most of the recipes are relatively easy to toss together, like these "magickal" mushrooms from the Samhain (Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve) chapter. This weekend is the start of the Witches' New Year, when pumpkins, flax, sage, wormwood apples, cranberries, beets, mulled wine and various other foods for winter stockpiling are celebrated. Happy All Hallows' Eve.

Magickal Mushrooms

From: The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual and Lore, second edition

Note: Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

12 stuffed mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup chopped mushroom stems

2 tablespoons diced green bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped onion

3/4 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons cooked, crumbled bacon

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper

1 cup large mushrooms, stemmed

1/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over low heat. Add the mushroom stems, green pepper, and onions. Sauté until tender. Mix in the bread crumbs, bacon, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps. Place the caps on a baking sheet. Melt the remaining butter and drizzle it over the caps. Top each mushroom with grated cheddar cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.