Winter Is Com— Oh Wait, It's Here
Burn, baby, burn: Imbolc recipe cards, booktail raffle, and booktails inspired by HUNGRY FOR HOME, AMONG THIEVES, and TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME!
Welcome back to The Cauldron! (Crickle crackle, snap and pop!) Let the fires of Imbolc BURN!
When you last heard from me, Hanukkah had just ended and we were on the verge of Christmas and Yule. We were wreathed in darkness, but we held it off with stars and twinkle lights, tipsily squinting our way through the blur of shiny paper wrappings and candlelight flares.
Now the holi-daze is over and here we are, stuck in the middle of winter doldrums. It feels endless and bleak. Will the light ever return? But wait! There’s hope!
One of the best parts of being a witchy pagan is there are so many holidays! Every solstice and equinox gets its due, plus every milestone in between, which is like cake for your half birthday. Coming February 1st-2nd is Imbolc!
Imbolc (also known as Oimelc) is from an Irish word originally thought to mean "in the belly," though it also translates as "ewe's milk." Based in Celtic tradition, Imbolc falls at a crucial point in the yearly cycle, at halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Our reserves are low at this stage of the year, both literally and figuratively. We need the light to return to us and bring with it the sexy, bountiful spring.
As with pretty much every pagan holiday, Imbolc is celebrated by lighting fires, (pagans just LOVE fire) this time to honor the sun's return. Known as the day of Brigid, (also known as Bride, Brigit, and Brid) Imbolc honors the Celtic goddess of fire and fertility. The daughter of the oldest god in the pantheon, Brigid is considered one of the most powerful of the Celtic deities.
To celebrate each sabbat of the year, I’m releasing a custom special edition deck of 4 recipe cards per holiday. The Imbolc deck—which includes the Brigid, Hearth Embers, the Snowdrop, and the Milk of the Gods—is now available from Pick Your Potions’ shop. If you missed the Yule deck, don’t worry, they’re still there! And next up is Ostara, which you might know a little about from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. If not, stay tuned for chocolate, bunnies, and lots of florals. So drink up and party like a pagan!
More Fun Stuff from the Shop!
When I first started making booktails, I offered my services to other authors for free and it was glorious. But as you might’ve guessed, that model was not super sustainable. Liquor costs money, folks! Not to mention the value of one’s time. Writers know this all too well. It’s startling how much of our own funds we put down to promote our books through giveaways, ads, submission fees, travel expenses, and so much more. To help defray expenses, I’m offering my first-ever Pick Your Potions booktail raffle!
Tickets are $10 each. Yes, you can buy more than one. You can also purchase tickets on behalf of another author.
To enter, simply purchase as many tickets as you like here.
Then, fill out this handy dandy little form and tell me all your secrets—I mean, allergies and preferences.
Lastly—and this is important!—please send me a pdf of the book. I can’t booktail-ize something I haven’t read! (Files can be uploaded via the sign-up form linked above.)
The raffle ends on Valentines Day. After the drawing, the winner will receive their booktail within 6 weeks.
And Now, More Booktails!
Behold these delicious reads and tantalizing drinks, or is it the other way around? Anyway, meet some of the latest booktails to add to your tbd (to be drunk) list!
In HUNGRY FOR HOME: STORIES OF FOOD FROM ACROSS THE CAROLINAS, author, editor, and food essayist Amy Rogers begins with the question, “What makes you who you are?” The answer, if one follows the clues in the book’s recipes—many accompanied by personal origin narratives, along with thoughtful, moving essays penned by Rogers herself—is not a simple “you are what you eat.” Instead, HUNGRY FOR HOME explores a loving, mutual relationship between ourselves and our palates. One dish at a time, we begin to see how “...history, geography, economics, and politics are exactly the forces that determine what we find on our supermarket shelves, in restaurants and on our plates.” With recipes culled from wide swaths of residents of the Carolinas, including first- or second-generation immigrants from all over the world, (the sheer number and diversity of recipes using ginger, for example, speaks volumes) you quickly gather that Rogers’ deliciously diverse collection is more than a cookbook, it’s a meditation on life, love, and American culture and cuisine.
In keeping with Rogers’ nightly after-work tradition of pouring a small glass of vodka for Elaine, her mother of blessed memory, this cocktail is vodka-based. (Vodka is also a nod to Russian Count Stroganoff, whose namesake recipe appears in this book.) Peach shrub provides the body of the flavor—made with rice vinegar for Carolina Della rice, planted by Campbell Coxe, as well as the author’s pickle-y Russian-Polish-Jewish roots. Peach itself is for Foolproof Fruit Crumble; Cold Creamy Peach Soup; Peaches Over an Open Fire; novelist, cookbook author, and peach farmer Dori Sanders; Peach Cobbler, and more. Versatile ginger is a reference to Around the World Salad; South African Beef Curry; Groundnut Stew from Togo; Grandma’s Persimmon Pudding, and last but not least, the author’s own favorite Maple Ginger Salmon, a recipe that carried on even when a marriage didn’t. Finally, lemon juice sharpens the flavors and honors the lemon peel in dear friend Heidi’s delicious stuffed olives.
Displayed in a kitchen scene, this booktail appears at the center of a tableau laid out on a stone countertop with HUNGRY FOR HOME set on a stone cutting board. A collection of cooking utensils peep over the book’s top edge, ready to be deployed, while a shot of vodka appears just beneath the title as an offering to the departed. On either side, the book is framed by oranges and limes, apples, fresh mint, ginger, and an egg. Sprinkles of rice, paprika, curry powder, cloves, brown sugar, and a cinnamon stick surround the base of the glass.
HUNGRY FOR HOME
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz peach shrub (see recipe)
0.5 lemon juice
A pea-sized drop of ginger paste
First prepare the shrub. Once ready, combine all ingredients in a shaker with a large cube of ice. Agitate vigorously for several seconds, until the ice breaks up. Strain through a mesh sieve into a glass. Stir as needed to get all the liquid to pass through. Garnish with a slice of peach.
Southern Peach Shrub
Two large firm peaches, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped, or 2 cups frozen peach slices, thawed
1 cup water
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ Tablespoon orange zest
Yields about 2 cups
In a blender, purée the peaches, water, sugar, and lemon. Pour the entire mixture into a lidded container and add the vinegar and orange zest. Stir, then set in the fridge for 2-4 days. Strain into a clean jar or bottle, discarding the fruit. Keep refrigerated.
In the five kingdoms of Thamorr, some are born with superhuman abilities of extraordinary potential. But this blessing is nothing more than a curse: all Adepts are rounded up as children, enslaved, and sold to the highest bidder by the all-powerful leader, the Guildmaster. When a colorful band of talented thieves, smugglers, and tricksters catches wind of a plot to acquire a valuable object in the Guildmaster’s possession, this cunning crew sets out on a dangerous mission rife with hidden motives and competing plots. Among them is Riya, known on wanted posters as “The Butcher” for her beloved blades that never miss. The only one who knows the real value and potential of the artifact they seek, Riya must push herself to the limits to keep power from falling into the wrong hands. But she can’t do it alone: for this mission to succeed, the team’s confidence in one another will have to become more powerful than their secrets.
AMONG THIEVES is a cinematic read, replete with zinging dialogue and characters with troubled consciences you can’t help but root for—including some fiercely intelligent, physically gifted and sometimes queer female leads, whose positions and prowess are deftly portrayed in a way that feels natural, never pandering.
In this mocktail recipe, chamomile tea references the personal aroma of a character known as The Snake, which is picked up by Riya’s super nose. Simple syrup sweetens the deal, while lemon keeps it sharp, a nod to the scent-blocking lemon balm Riya uses to hide from Adept soldiers and brainwashed bodyguards. Blackberries match the novel’s purple-blue color scheme, including the garb of the Adept, and the capes the team employs for disguise.
This booktail is presented against a magical, swirling purple, blue, and gold backdrop, with a ghostly pirate ship sailing along the horizon. The ship—watercolored with food coloring—then painted with shadows of purple sugar, represents the literal voyage the crew must take to execute their mission, along with their emotional journey. It’s also a symbol of outlaws, thievery, and the battle against tyranny. The base on which the twisted, purple-sheened Aomori glass sits is mirrored—another nod to self-reflection and multiple identities—and covered in waves of blue and purple sugar.
2.5 oz chamomile tea
1 oz simple syrup (see recipe, or purchase at a liquor store, large grocery chain, or online)
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
6 fresh blackberries, rinsed
Lemon peel garnish
First, prepare the syrup if making your own. Let it cool completely. Meanwhile, make a cup of chamomile tea and allow it to steep as it gradually reaches room temperature. Once the syrup and tea are ready, add both to a shaker with a large cube or hunk of ice, along with the lemon juice and blackberries. Agitate vigorously for 10-20 seconds, until the ice begins to break up. Strain into a rocks glass, allowing only a small portion of the blackberry bits to pass through. Garnish with a slice of lemon peel: remove the strip with a peeler or a sharp knife, then twist it over the glass and run the peel along the rim before dropping it into the drink.
To convert this mocktail into a cocktail, follow the same instructions, simply include 1.5 oz gin, bourbon, or vodka when adding ingredients to the shaker.
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
Stir the sugar and water together in a small pot, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until all the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool, then strain into a clean jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated.
In Jen Fawkes’ brilliant and irresistibly inventive collection TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME, familiar tales are recast from alternate perspectives with poignancy and wit: meet Rumpelstiltskin as a would-be adoptive parent; Captain Hook as the postal worker stepdad who gave up the sea for love and family; Hamlet’s gentle uncle, hopelessly enamored with his brother’s wife and desperate to put a stop to a mass murderer; the mirror hanging on the wall in the chamber belonging to Snow White’s royal stepmother—rather, the soul inside it; Ahab’s whale: “I glide through the Pacific, throwing a colossal shadow over the sea floor, wondering what volume of the ocean has been displaced by my tears.” The stories are tender and beautifully told, the characters rendered in full color.
Bourbon is included in this booktail for the childless rumpelstilt, and gold rum for Captain Hook: in college, Peter, the pirate’s stepson, uses rum bottles to make gravity bongs. Amaretto is for the familiar house ornamented with kekse, lebkuchen bricks, and hazelnut and almond shingles on the roof. Drambuie brings to mind the honeyed wine a goddess like Medusa would drink, as well as the honey young Hamlet slathers on Polonius before tying him up atop an anthill. Last but not least, rose water is for Peter’s mother’s roses—a relentless crocodile slinking through the bushes—and for the roses Mrs. Danvers keeps in Rebecca’s room.
This booktail is presented amidst a fairytale tableau: set in a diamond glass atop circles of wood, a rosebud under its heels, the glass takes center stage before the book itself, with a white chocolate skull in its corner as a nod to Hamlet. Framed by green white chocolate leaves sits a quaint gingerbread house with (mostly) edible flowers, candy ivy creeping up its walls, and almond shingles on the roof just like the house in “Tiny Bones.” The brown sugar path leads into a field of green sugar, which crests into blue as it passes the diamond glass, a merger of land and sea.
TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME
1 oz Kentucky bourbon
1 oz gold rum
0.5 oz amaretto
0.5 oz Drambuie
¼ tsp rose water
Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add all ingredients, then gently stir a few times. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.