Witch Hazel Taught My Mother How to Cook Witches' Brew
Updated: Oct 4, 2022
My sister, brother and I were anything but fussy eaters. Our mother--a commercial artist--was a talented gourmet home cook, and she prided herself on the wide range of delicacies she introduced us to, including many international cuisines. We'd eat frog's legs provencal, Japanese sushi and Chinese lion head soup, but when it came to simple beef vegetable soup, we weren't having any part of it.
Now let me say that Mommy's beef vegetable soup recipe was delicious--tender chunks of beef, homemade broth simmered with love, fresh carrots, celery and cabbage and just the right combination of seasonings. While I no longer eat meat, I still salivate thinking about it.
But that wasn't always the case.
Back in the late 50s, the three of us simply refused to eat that soup. But Mommy was not only smart and resourceful, she also could weave a great story.
Each October, our family went into Halloween mode. For the entire month, we decorated our house with witches, ghouls, ghosts and goblins all month long. We had tissue paper skeletons hanging from the ceiling along with orange and black crepe paper spider webs. We listened to the Monster Mash and spooky sound effects. Each night, we rushed through our homework so we could gather around the fire, drink hot chocolate, eat homemade donut balls and read Halloween stories. And that's what spawned Mommy's clever plan.
Now we already knew that Mommy had a special friend. When Halloween came around, Witch Hazel would visit. We knew because every Halloween night while we were out Trick or Treating, Witch Hazel (out for a celebratory flight) would drop by our house to visit with Mommy. We never saw Witch Hazel, but we knew she was real because she'd leave gifts for us on the hearth. And after all, what more proof does a kid need?
One October night, instead of reading a Halloween story, Mommy let us in on a secret and shared a special recipe that Witch Hazel had given her. It was Witches' Brew. And while the ingredients seemed to be missing the de rigueur eye of newt, hair of frog and lizard's breath, we were curious to hear more.
"I understand your kids don't like beef vegetable soup," Hazel told to Mommy, "so I wanted to give them a magical meal. My Witches' Brew not only tastes good, but it has super powers."
Super powers! Wow! As a kid who ate bowls of breakfast cereal convinced it would help me fly and wore PF Flyers so I could "run as faster and jump higher" I was all about super powers. It was never really clear what super powers we could expect. But as best as I could figure, the powers adapted to each child's deepest desires. If you wanted to pass a math test with a high score, eat a bowl of witches' brew. If you wanted to play basketball like a champ, eat your witches' brew. And if you wanted to clean your room with lightning speed, eat the brew.
From that night on, Hazel's Witches' Brew was a staple in our home. And my mother never had a problem getting us to eat our beef vegetable soup (aka Witches' Brew). It remained a family favorite for many years.
Thank you Witch Hazel.
PS: My mother loved Halloween. The illustration at the top of this blog post is taken from a painting she made for me.
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