My last post explored the connections between Persephone and Pomegranate, winters and mothers–the myth as it appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. The tiny, juicy, ruby red Pomegranate seed was the hero of that culinary story.
Demeter (Persephone’s mother), has been on my mind here in the Shenandoah mountains of Virginia. The earth is frozen solid on this January day. It is hard to believe that in just a few short months, the tendrils and fronds of ferns and daffodils will push through the soft, loamy, thawed and fertile soil. Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE winter. I love hibernating, nesting, drinking mulled wine, dreaming, and eating hearty soups. I love the long nights and the sound of my rooster crowing in the still and dark of a later morning wake-up call. But, spring is just around the corner, and here on our little homestead, we celebrate each season fully with good food and even better friends.
Demeter (whose Roman name is Ceres) is the reigning archetypal goddess of our life here. We eat according to the fruits of the season. We harvest wild berries and medicinal herbs. We try to eat as much food produced by local farmers as possible. We can fruit jams and tomato sauces in the summer and bone stock from our chickens in the winter. My wife is a hunter, and now that the hunting season is drawing to a close, she is honoring the animals who gave their lives for our sustenance by turning them into marchese, sweet Italian, breakfast, banger, and tuscan sausages. I am mostly vegetarian, and she works wonders with charcuterie.
Yesterday, some dear friends arrived from the city to spend the weekend soaking up the tempo and pace of our little mountain home, nestled in the protective arms of woodland oaks and cypress trees. We laughed and enjoyed serious merriment together. I made a steaming pot of minestrone soup, a fresh arugula salad, and spelt, millet, fried apple and onion muffins. We played board games beside the fireplace. As I was cooking, I recalled these beautiful lines from Ovid’s Fasti (book 4), lines which resonate so perfectly today. Our home is a haven from all that is happening out there in a world that is chaotic and fraught. I join Ovid from my little neck of the woods in praying for perpetual peace, for a peaceful leader. “Ceres” Ovid reminds the farmer, “is happy in peace”:
Hinc Cereris ludi: non est opus indice causae;
sponte deae munus promeritumque patet.
panis erat primis virides mortalibus herbae, 395
quas tellus nullo sollicitante dabat;
et modo carpebant vivax e caespite gramen,
nunc epulae tenera fronde cacumen erant.
postmodo glans nota est: bene erat iam glande reperta,
duraque magnificas quercus habebat opes. 400
prima Ceres homine ad meliora alimenta vocato
mutavit glandes utiliore cibo.
illa iugo tauros collum praebere coegit:
tum primum soles eruta vidit humus.
aes erat in pretio, Chalybeia massa latebat: 405
eheu, perpetuo debuit illa tegi.
pace Ceres laeta est; et vos orate, coloni,
perpetuam pacem pacificumque ducem.
farra deae micaeque licet salientis honorem…
Here, now, are the games of Ceres: there is no need to cite the reason;
the bounty and the gifts of the goddess are abundantly clear.
the bread of the first human beings were green grasses,
which the earth gave without anyone cultivating it;
and at one time they plucked the living grass from the soil,
and at another, their feasts were the tree tops with their tender leaf.
Afterwards, the acorn became known: things were good now that the acorn was found,
and the hard oak tree possessed magnificent wealth.
Ceres was the first to call upon human beings to exchange the acorn
for better crops—a more useful food.
She compelled bulls to offer their neck to the yoke:
at that time, the upturned soil first saw the light of day.
bronze was in use everywhere; iron ore still lay concealed in the earth:
ah…it ought to have been concealed forever.
Ceres is happy in peace; and you, farmers, pray
for perpetual peace and a peaceful leader.
Spelt and grains of salt are a fitting offering to the goddess… (my translation)
Spelt muffins for peace!! Given a wonderful chewy structure and texture by the addition of cooked millet. The aroma and flavor of autumn’s last offerings of apple fried up with onions and anise seed in plenty of butter in a cast iron pan. Sweetened with a little bit of honey. Ceres, be happy. Dear friends and readers, may peace reign in your lives and mine.
Spelt, Millet, Fried Apple and Onion Muffins
Savory and sweet, the aroma of these delicious muffins will warm your home.
- 1 cup millet
- 2 cups water
- 2 apples, peeled and chopped into med. sized chunks
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp anise seed
- 1 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
- 3 tbsp softened, lightly melted butter
- 1 cup half-n-half
- 1/2 cup honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small, covered pot on the stove top, boil the water, pour in the millet, and then simmer the millet (low-med. heat) until it has absorbed all the water, about 8-10 min. Take lid off pot and cool millet.
While millet is cooking, chop 2 peeled apples and one small onion. Pan fry them in 3 tbsp butter and 1/2 tsp anise seed until onions and apples are carmelized, soft, and fragrant. Turn off the heat and let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly.
While apples and onions are cooking, mix all of the dry ingredients (spelt, baking soda and powder, salt) in a bowl.
Mix all of the wet ingredients (egg, yogurt, butter, half-n-half, honey) in another bowl.
Add 1 heaping cup of the cooked and slightly cooled millet to the wet ingredients and mix well. (use the remaining for a salad, pancake batter, or side).
Mix the wet and dry ingredients well.
Add in the apple/onion mixture.
Spray muffin tin cups with your favorite olive oil, coconut oil, or butter cooking spray. Then fill muffin tin with
Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 min. or until muffins are cakey and firm.
Makes about 12 muffins