Honoring St. Brigid
The light is returning, friends
Bare Bones is written by Beth Dooley and Kip Dooley. Their weeklyish essays and recipes come from mother-son cooking and wisdom-sharing, and are indebted to many farmers, artists, food workers, home cooks and healers. This edition features a recipe for Golden Beet Soup for the Celtic festival of Imbolc, a celebration of St. Brigid and the halfway point to spring solstice. Subscribe for free and share below:
The ancestors are not in the past. They are a collection of forces, spirits, souls, or energies that dwell in this moment, in the present. - Dr. Daniel Foor
Each night through this long Minnesota winter, we’ve lit a fire. Of course, gas ovens and water heaters made the hearth technically obsolete long ago; but a primitive yearning for its glow, the snap and pop of flame and its gradual fade to embers remains strong in my bones. My Celtic ancestors would have “smoored” or covered these embers before heading to bed, stirring them the next morning to warm the house and begin the cycle of day once again. During this dark, cold season of pandemic and political violence, the hearth has become a place for us to remember fond seasons past, hold the pain of the present moment, and kindle hope for better times to come.
All of us have ancestors who lived close to the land, and who marked the earth’s cycles with ceremony and prayer. At this time of the year, the Celts of the British Isles honored Brigid, goddess of hearth and home, with the festival of Imbolc from January 31 to February 1. According to their myths, she traveled over fields and forests during this midpoint between winter and spring solstice, blessing homes, pastures, and barns to remind us that light and warmth would come again. To honor and nourish her on her journey, the people ate and made offerings of bread, milk, and beer.
Reflecting on Imbolc, I’ve come to believe we’re in an auspicious time, a liminal space between seasons, both in the natural world and, I hope, in our politics. I feel a sense of promise in the afterglow of the inauguration, in news of the vaccine, and in bright morning skies and ever-so-slightly warmer air temps. I’ve been mulling over how I can best step into this potent moment; how I can call on the sacred stories beyond our recent history of conquest and industrialization; how I can listen for the steady, medicinal rhythm beneath the pain of our recent past and the din of the day-to-day news cycle.
It’s said that Brigid, whose name meant “bright one,” transformed water into beer, and magically replenished larders with wheat and butter. Beer, bread and milk aren’t what my body wants today, but their symbolic qualities of fertility, strength, and fun offer a template for an Imbolc feast to nourish me in this time and place.
So instead of golden beer, butter and wheat, today I’m cooking with golden beets.
Golden beets are one of nature's sweetest vegetables -- but sweet does not mean frivolous; in fact, their natural sugars act as an antifreeze against ice crystals that threaten to rupture the plant’s cell walls. Their honeyed flavor and sunny hues warm the plate, and make for a soup that’s both hearty and bright. The beauty of this soup is that you really don’t need a recipe. The same might be said of the art of ritual: we take what we know from the past, and mix it with the ingredients we have on hand, to make something new with presence and gratitude for the world today, and the people we know and love.
What’s nourishing you? Let us know by replying to this email. We’ll publish our favorite replies next time.
What’s Nourishing Us:
The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion and Power in Celtic Ireland - Dr. Mary Condren
St. Brigid’s Day customs and traditions - The Connaught Telegraph
Decolonizing the Psyche with Dr. Amber McZeal - The Holistic Life Navigation Podcast
Golden Beet Soup
Serves 4 to 6
Carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips all work well if you can’t find golden beets. Change the seasonings to your taste – try orange and mustard, vinegar and dill, or miso, soy, and rice vinegar.
You can vary the vegetables in this creamy yet creamless soup, too. A dollop of whole milk yogurt gives it a silky body. Leftovers will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for three days. It’s especially pretty when garnished with a roasted, cubed red beet.
4 to 5 medium sized golden beets, about 1-1/2 pounds
1 medium red beet, optional for garnish
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, to taste
¼ to 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If the beets still have their leafy greens remove and reserve for another use. Scrub the beets, wrap individually and loosely in aluminum foil. Place the beets on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until a sharp knife slides easily into the center of the beet, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the beets and allow to cool, then remove the skin. Dice the beets, being sure to keep the red beets separate from the gold and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large, deep soup pot set over medium heat, add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock and the potato, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potato is tender. Add the gold beets to the pot and simmer for a minute or two. Using an immersion blender (or working in batches pour the soup into a blender) and puree the gold beets and potato and return to the pot. Add more stock if you need to adjust the consistency. Season to taste with the lemon juice and horseradish. Swirl in the yogurt for a creamier texture and tang. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the diced red beet.
Thanks for reading, friends. Write us back by replying to this email. Share “what’s nourishing you” and we’ll feature our favorites in the next edition. You can reach Beth directly at email@example.com.