Full Moon Feast. Chelsea Green Publishing

Full Moon Feast. Chelsea Green Publishing

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Food and the Hunger for Connection



Editor: Mary Bahr
Managing Editor: Marcy Brant
Copy Editor: Laura Jorstad
Proofreader: Collette Leonard
Designer: Peter Holm, Sterling Hill Productions
Design Assistant: Daria Hoak, Sterling Hill Productions
Illustrations by Sara Love

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Full Moon Feast
Food and the Hunger for Connection


Cream of Parsnip Soup
Beet Borscht
Oyster Plant Chowder
Winter Minestrone
Golden Vegetable Bisque
Roasted Root Vegetables
Coconut and Palm Sugar Semifreddi
Maple-vanilla Panna Cruda
Cardamom and Jaggery Rice Pudding
Maple-roasted Nuts
Hot Coco Cocoa
After-dinner Mints
Asparagus Frittata
Stracciatella (Roman Egg Drop Soup)
Asian Egg Drop Soup
Spring Tonic Nettle Soup
Avocado and Hard-cooked Eggs with a Lemony Dressing
Warm Frothed Milk with Saffron and Cardamom
Yogurt Cheese Peras with Rosewater Syrup
Clabbered Cottage Cheese
Creamy Salad Dressing
Superfood and Kefir Shake
Coconut-date Energy Balls
Rendering Lard
Niter Qibbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Ghee)
Olive Oil Mayonnaise
Mellow Mead
Honeybee Lemonade
I Dream of Peaches and Cream
Honeybee Yogurt
Summer Berries with Lavender Crème Anglaise
Lemon Verbena Ale
Root Beer
Herbal Latte
Hibiscus and Rose Hip Soda
Yarrow Ale
Birch Beer or Sorghum Ale
Suffer-free Succotash
Calabacitas with Herbed Crema
Potato-corn Chowder
Sourdough Corn Fritters
Sourdough Crumpets
Budín de Maíz
Whole Roast Salmon
Salmon Cured with Maple and Juniper
Simple Salmon Fillets
Easy Hollandaise
Salmon Poached in a Lemongrass and Coconut Milk Sauce
Simplest Roast Chicken
Swedish Meatballs
Beef Liver with Browned Onions
Stir-fry of Pork and Vegetables with Ginger
Lamb Chops with Meyer Lemon and Mint Gelée
Beef Broth
Sauerkraut and Rot Kohl
Quick and Simple Kimchi
Lacto-fermented Raita
Lacto-fermented Tabbouleh
Lacto-fermented Corn Relish
Lacto-fermented Peach Chutney
Sausage with Potatoes and Cabbage
Pot Roast
Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Shchi (Russian Peasant Soup)
New England Clam Chowder
Cream of Butternut Squash Soup
Chicken Stock
Chicken Soup with Wild Rice
Dungeness Crab Cakes
Sourdough Cheese Herb Scones
Homemade Sourdough Crackers


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 2006 Jessica Prentice 

After reading Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, I took a
look at my library of cookbooks to see if there was anything that came as close
to embracing the scope of the human relationship to food.

First, there are my favorites, classics published from the 1950s through the
1970s, the books that got me started in cooking— Elizabeth David’s slim books
and Jane Grigson’s two plump volumes, one on fruit and the other on vegetables.
Both authors greatly enriched their work with erudition, and their recipes are
peppered generously with scholarly tidbits both botanical and literary. Memories
and recollections of dishes, places, and the people who knew and cooked them
provide a heady stew of context for the recipes, which are breezy and relaxed in
their telling; tea cups, wine glasses, and butter “the size of a nut” do for
measurements. Waverly Root’s two volumes on France and Italy, which also
date from the 1950s, depict a geography of food as he portrays dishes that are
eaten in mountainous regions or by the sea; recipes that are products of rich
areas and poor; food cultures that are based on butter or olive oil or lard.

Twenty years later Richard Olney wrote a marvelous book called Simple
French Food in which he portrays not just how to make a dish, but the culture
and context in which the dish dwells. He does give recipes, which are fairly
precise, but years later he wrote, “I don’t like recipes. They keep cooks from
using their intuition, and intuition is precisely what so much of cooking is
about.” Perhaps that’s why he often followed the specifics of a recipe with a
long verbal ramble that considers all the other possibilities, should you have
leftovers or something other than what’s called for, as is so often the case. There
were other writers of this ilk, authors who dove into a culture perhaps not their
own and explored its food. What connects them is the sense of connection itself
that they can’t help but communicate: a dish and its recipe don’t stand apart from
place and season, history, and people. To me this sense of a recipe existing in a
web of connections is an enormous part of these authors’ appeal. I’ve also
noticed in my travels that the more a culture is intact, the fewer cookbooks it
produces. Full Moon Feast also seeks connection and culture, but it reaches back
farther in time to ancient peoples and practices that illustrate a more fundamental
relationship to food, and food’s relationship to life.

In our ever-fracturing world everything has changed, including food writing
and cookbooks. Most of my cookbooks, the ones accumulated over the past
twenty years, speak not of geography, tradition, and culture, but exist in service
to pursuits peculiar to America—the pursuit of speed and efficiency, for
example, or for ways around commitment, time, and the pleasures of cooking
and sharing meals. There are a myriad of single-subject cookbooks that vary
thematically from chicken to eggs, from meat to muffins, and rice to roots. There
are gigantic all-purpose cookbooks as well as guides to putting food up and
keeping food fresh. And of course there are books that promise health or weight
loss or cater to a diet that involves eliminating something— meat, dairy, wheat,
fat. In stark contrast to these books are those glossy tomes in which chefs reveal
their often intricate and costly recipes. Cookbook writing dwells in a wild
territory, a place where worthy traditions are freely flaunted in order to cater to
the desires of a particular audience. Foods are combined with no regard for their
season or attributes; dairy that would be rich and full of good fat in its original
culture is reduced to nonfat in this one, yet the promise of goodness is not
withdrawn. A vegetarian might claim that nutritional yeast tastes “just like
chicken stock” or act as if a cheese made from rice milk has all the complex,
mysterious attributes of raw cows’ milk cheese. Recipes are executed in an
exacting style and the free, open gestures of those earlier writers who pointed us
to rich cultural traditions are gone. Recipes float on the page. They aren’t
anchored to a greater whole.

But recently books have been looking different. They haven’t gone back to the
world of exploring cultures that exist elsewhere (although some very good ones
do), but they have gone on to reveal the larger context in which we need to
consider eating and cooking in our consumer-driven culture. They may include
recipes, as does Full Moon Feast, but at the same time they thread a path
through such issues as provenance, toxicity, animal welfare, sustainability,
seasonality, and more. The Ethical Gourmet wants to show us how “to enjoy
great food that is humanely raised, sustainable, non-endangered, and that
replenishes the earth.” Tall order. The Real Food Revival is “an A to Z guide for
interacting with the multi-faceted, often convoluted business of food.” Jane
Goodall has written about food and the shape of food practices in America, and
Andrew Weil speaks to our health by connecting what we eat to how we live in
the world. A farmer writes about raising peaches in California. From England,
The River Cottage Cookbook touts real home cooking and includes a paragraph
on owning a shotgun and another on slaughtering a pig—a truly whole-foods
approach that considers a world of self-sufficiency and intimacy with animals.
Like Jessica Prentice’s, my library doesn’t include cookbooks alone. I too
have Dr. Weston Price’s book on nutrition and physical degeneration;
collections of folktales; books on the ethics of eating meat; others on botany,
plant origins and histories; memoirs of cooks; books on food chemistry, on wild
fermentation, and others on the dangers of modern food. But the difference
between Jessica Prentice and me is that these books live in her home, whereas
my cookbooks live in my office, as if home and office occupy different worlds.
In Full Moon Feast, Prentice deftly shows that they clearly are of one world. It
takes someone with a wide vision to bring all these facets of human thought and
experience together into a rich and unified whole, which Prentice has.

The moons in the title refer to food times, times of the year when certain foods
assume prominence, and they make perfect sense, if you can imagine—and with
this author’s help, you can—a world in which human cultures are exactly in tune
with the places they occupy on the planet. This was once a universal human
experience, but for modern Americans especially, it is not easy to imagine how it
feels to live such a vital connection between season and food, let alone
experience it. Full Moon Feast takes us far from the mechanistic bent of our
“everything all the time” culture and shows us how we might see ourselves as
members of a human community that ranges far back in time and wide in place,
much farther and wider than the world of the authors I’ve mentioned. This is not
about fashion or style on the plate; it’s not about trendy new foods or amazing
equipment. Nor is it just about how cruel and disconnected our ways of raising,
cooking, and consuming food are. Closer to Walden Pond than The Joy of
Cooking, Full Moon Feast puts aside what isn’t important to realize a more
fundamental relationship to food, one that weaves history, anthropology, folk
life, myth, medicine, a personal journey and, of course, food itself into a whole.

Full Moon Feast picks up the whole cloth of our human world, not just the rag
that is our food-as-fuel (but not too much fat, please) approach. Rather than
telling us only what’s horrific about something, it digs down to those
fundamental attitudes that have produced our now-trying relationships to food
and shows us what other possibilities might exist, have existed, for deeper
connection and joy in our life. The cost of replacing our intuition and connection
with such things as the desires for speed, thinness, the constant availability of
foodstuffs, is the vitality and joy of life itself. Not just about the right or
wrongness of a situation, Full Moon Feast brings together the threads of human
culture that we might look more deeply at the nature of the collective self and
ask the question: What kind of a human animal do we want to be, really?
Amazingly, preachiness is avoided, even in the heartfelt offerings that conclude
each chapter. And the recipes, which in most cases appear to be for familiar
foods (sauerkraut, sourdough fritters, taboulleh), are recast as foods that are alive
with cultures other than human—beneficial bacteria, yeasts, things causing
fermentation that makes foods alive and probiotic. You can taste the difference
in food that is alive, and feel it, too.

It hasn’t happened often, but on a few occasions I have had profound
encounters with food. One was eating honey, collected from an orchard in
Hawaii, that had never been heated in its making; another was eating bison that
was shot in its field then blessed by the Native American rancher; and just
recently, savoring a piece of beef cooked in Barolo, both from the Piedmont. The
breed was an old one, still loved and raised by a few wise farmers in that area. It
was more than simply good. On these occasions I experienced something I can
only think of as deep nourishment; food as sacramental sustenance that went far
beyond everything we usually make food into. These were foods that were
whole in the deepest sense, foods that were alive, and foods you could feel;
foods that came from human hands, hearts and minds at work. As soon as I
tasted them, I felt something was different, and a feeling of reverence arose
spontaneously. This was physical and spiritual nourishment, food that expressed
webs and layers of connections. It was, in each case, astonishing. I believe that
we are nourished by foods that come out of wholeness or, in other words, foods
that have integrity, that come from a place where things are connected. For me,
Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection is ultimately about this
deep nourishment and the lives we might live that include it. Reading it, you
sense that this might, just might, be possible.
Author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating
from America’s Farmers’ Markets

stars around the beautiful moon
hide back their luminous form
whenever all full she shines
on the earth

Our sense of time and the seasons is based on the rhythms of life on planet
Earth. Darkness gives way to daylight; the sun moves through the sky
until its setting blankets the Earth in darkness again. At night the moon
and stars shine clear against the black canopy of the sky, and they appear to
move until daylight overtakes them.

We live our lives, literally, day by day: waking in the morning, working
through the day, resting in the evening, and sleeping at night. While we know
that the spinning of the Earth on its axis accounts for this rhythm—it takes
twenty-four hours for the planet to spin once around—beautiful sunrises and
sunsets still have the power to take our breath away, and to make us aware of the
miracle of life on our planet.

Throughout most of human history, the activities of the nighttime sky were
much more visible and more a part of human consciousness than they are now.
With our cities lit up by electric lights, with televisions, computers, and movies
to claim our attention, and with bedside lamps to read by, most of us are
distracted from what is happening in the night sky. Our ancestors, however,
watched the rhythm of the heavenly bodies with great interest.

Each night marks a subtle but discernible change in the shape of the moon.
Sometimes the moon is not visible at all. And then it seems to magically
reappear, as a slender crescent, getting bigger and bigger each night until finally
it is a complete sphere of light. And then it begins to shrink until once again it
disappears. This cycle, from new moon to new moon, is called a lunation.
Lunations vary somewhat in length, but average twenty-nine and a half days. We
now know that a lunation is the period of time it takes for the moon to orbit the Earth.

We have evidence that humans kept track of lunar cycles as early as 25,000
BCE. Lunar calendars were probably the first calendars developed throughout
the world, underscoring how intimately the moon is connected to our concepts of
time and measurement. Our ancestors connected the cyclical rhythm of the
waxing and waning of the moon to the changes in seasons of the world around
them. Ancient and traditional cultures often developed evocative names for the
different lunations that corresponded to the seasons, and to the natural
phenomena that nature replayed in their environment year after year.

Many of these old moon names are hard to find, and even harder to verify
once you do find them. They are part of the oral traditions of hunter-gatherer and
agrarian peoples from around the world, and almost everywhere they have been
replaced by our modern Gregorian calendar. But some of these names were
written down, and can be found if you look for them. It would take extensive
field research to verify the authenticity of some of these names—and it may not
be possible anyway, since so much of this traditional knowledge and language
has been lost. But if we listen to them for their poetry, and for the way of life
they recollect, they resonate with meaning with or without proof of their perfect accuracy.

Naturally, each culture’s moon names related to the seasons as they
experienced them. The Saanich (Wsanec) people of the Pacific Northwest named
the moon that fell around our month of October Pekelánew, which can be
translated as the Moon That Turns the Leaves White. An old Japanese name for
the moon that fell around May was SaTsuki, the Moon When Rice Sprouts. An
ancient Babylonian name for a moon in early spring was Addaru, the Moon of
Threshing. A Cree name for a moon that fell roughly around our month of May
was Sakipakawpicim, or the Leaves Appear Moon. A moon in the Islamic Hijrah
calendar is Jumaada Awal, the Moon of the First Freeze. An old German
springtime moon was Winnemanoth, the Grazing Moon; and the lunation that
corresponds to our July was—to the Maasai of East Africa—the Moon When
Women Wrangle and Squabble Because the Cows Give but Little Milk.

Many cultures had names for the moon that fell around the time of year that
their primary food source was harvested. Many of us have heard of the Harvest
Moon, a name that has been preserved by the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Hopi
had a moon called Tuho’osmuya, which has been translated as the Moon of
Harvesting. An ancient Norse name for a moon was Kornskurdarmánudr, or
Corn-Cutting Moon. There was an ancient Hebrew moon named Hodesh ha-
Aviv, which can be translated as the Moon of the Harvest. The old Anglo Saxon
calendar had a Hærfestmo:nath, the old Dutch calendar had a Herstmaand, and
the old German had a Herbistmanoth. In all of these names can be heard the
ancient importance of the harvest.

About four years ago I began writing a monthly e-letter that I send out to a list of
subscribers around each new moon. I used an old moon name for that lunar cycle
as my starting point for writing about food, cooking, health, and culture. I
discovered that these moon names gave me a deeper sense of seasonality, and of
what each time of year meant for my own ancestors as well as other cultures
living in the same physical place I do (North America). They helped me to
connect modern foods to culinary history and agricultural traditions. I mostly
used names from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, from indigenous North American
traditions, and from Old European calendars. Writing an e-letter that comes out
on the new moon, rather than once a month, has helped me to reconnect to the
lunar cycles that were once so important in people’s daily lives. The discipline of
having a lunar deadline has actually been a great blessing in my life, and I feel
more drawn than ever to living in a way that takes into account the cycles of
nature and the cosmos.

This book grew out of that experience. For any moon at any time of year there
are many names in many languages. I chose the names that resonate for me, and
introduce topics that matter to me. In other words, these moon names do not
reflect one particular culture’s calendar. They are a collage of names from
various calendars of peoples that have lived in the northern half of the Western
Hemisphere. (I have avoided using the lunar names of peoples that lived in
places dramatically different in terms of climate and geography from North
America so that I could talk about issues and seasons familiar to me.) I might
have called chapter 9 Harvest Moon, but I wanted to write about salmon, and so
chose instead Moon When Salmon Return to Earth. Each moon name does,
however, reflect a particular time of year, and the moons move through the

Why are there thirteen moons? It is nearly impossible to synchronize a lunar
calendar with a solar calendar. There are more than twelve lunations in a year,
but fewer than thirteen. Many peoples that used a lunar calendar had thirteen
moon names, one of which was used only once every three years or so (similar
to our leap day), as a way to recalibrate their lunar calendar to the seasons of the
solar year. In the Old Farmer’s Almanac there were twelve regular moon names.
The term Blue Moon was used when a month had more than one full moon, or a
season had more than three. This thirteenth moon name enabled the keepers of
the almanac to bring their lunar calendar into sync with the solar one. These
extra moon names are called intercalary months.

According to one observer, the Maasai also had twelve regular moon names.
When their moon name didn’t correspond to what was happening in nature, they
would recalibrate their calendar by repeating the moon name just passed. If they
reached what should be the Moon When the Lesser Rains Fall (December), but
the hot season was not yet actually over, they would say, “We have forgotten, it
is the Moon When the Clouds Become White” (November), even though that
moon had just ended. This is similar to the Chinese lunar calendar, which has
occasional leap months that share the name of the previous moon.

The Islamic calendar is lunar, but is not calibrated to the solar calendar.
Because it has only twelve moon names, the months rotate backward a bit each
year. This means that even though one Islamic moon name is Rabia Awal—the
Moon of First Spring—this month could fall at any time of year. Interestingly,
the new lunar month in the Islamic calendar begins not at the point of the
astronomical new moon, but at the point when the first crescent of moon is
visible in the sky—a day, or two, or even three days later. The first sighting of
the new crescent moon would be announced to the community, and the new
month would begin. A similar process happened throughout the ancient
Mediterranean, and in fact our English word calendar comes from the Latin verb
calare, to call out.

The Hebrew calendar is also lunar. Like many other lunar calendars it uses
twelve regular moon names, and then an intercalary month every few years to
synchronize the moons with the solar seasons. Jewish holidays are still
determined based on this traditional lunar calendar. The major holiday in the
Christian liturgical calendar— Easter—is also still determined by lunar cycles.
Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
The word Easter itself appears to be a reference to the Germanic fertility
goddess Eostre, who was celebrated in times of old with a lunar festival—on the
vernal equinox full moon.

Most American Indian calendars had thirteen moon names, one of which
wouldn’t be used every year. Some cultures taught the moon names as a series
described by the thirteen sections on a turtle’s back. A lovely children’s book
called Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back shows how this worked.

Although thirteen is sometimes thought to be a dangerous or unlucky number
—while twelve is considered a more holy or wholesome number—I think this is
a misreading. Thirteen is twelve plus one, which is holy even in the Christian
context. There were twelve apostles plus Jesus. That makes thirteen. There are
twelve moons in a year plus one added every few years. Some claim that the fact
that the value ration between gold and silver—which has remained around oneto-
thirteen since antiquity—is based on the relationship between the sun (gold)
and the moon (silver). The number thirteen was sacred to the ancient Maya and
remains so among modern Mayan peoples. I think there is good reason for this.
Thirteen is a powerful number.

I chose to use thirteen moons as a way to draw on this power, to honor
indigenous traditions, and to make the distinction between months and moons.
Although the idea of a month as a unit of time is directly descended from the
word for moon, and our months are roughly similar in length to the period of a
lunation, our modern months have now lost all correlation to the phases of the
moon. Twelve months are of course easier to manage than thirteen moons, but
they have lost their connection to the waxing and waning of a heavenly body,
and their names no longer resonate with what is happening in the natural world.
Naturally, because food was so important in the lives of traditional peoples,
many moon names reflect what was happening on farms at a particular time of
year, or what people were doing to secure food for the community. Many
lunations were named for a food abundant during that moon. This makes old
lunar calendars a good fit for writing about food and culinary traditions.
In my own life’s journey of discovery, food has been a great guide and
teacher. I’ve spent countless hours over the years in my kitchen— cooking or
engaged in other culinary projects and pursuits. I’ve also read extensively about
traditional foodways, health, nutrition, and culinary history. My fascination has
led me to learn more about agriculture, visit many farms and ranches, get to
know farmers, and shop at farmer’s markets—where I ask lots of questions and
get inspired over and over to try something new. All of these pursuits have
opened up a world of connections between the deep spirituality of this
fundamental necessity—food—and the benefits of recovering a whole
relationship to it.

Life is a great mystery and an enormous blessing. I am honored to share with
you this taste of life as I’ve experienced it. May it be sweet

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