November has returned, its path lit by millions of glowing jack-o-lanterns and the vibrancy of early fall that is now mellowing to a muted, earthy palette just waiting for a blanket of winter snow to cocoon the present season.
To those of us who bide our time patiently each year for our beloved October, November can bring about a certainly melancholy stemming from the reality that we must begin that long wait over again.
And yet, November’s presence is neither a bad nor an unfortunate thing. Regardless of what the weather may get up to, November is still fall time in the Northern Hemisphere.
In fact, it is the last full month of the present season, which will officially conclude when the Winter Solstice comes calling in December.
Instead of viewing November merely as the first step on the journey until next October, I consciously choose to bask in the lingering afterglow of my favourite month and to celebrate each precious moment of autumn while it is still here.
Since time immemorial, for those in colder climates, fall has often meant a return to heartier fare. One needs sustenance, fortitude, and flavours that both warm the belly and the heart alike as the mercury plummets.
To my mind, few cuisines anywhere on the globe can deliver that quite like the classic offerings that hail from the Celtic lands.
With the nights dropping well below freezing, arctic winds screeching past like frenzied owls, and the near-certain promise of multiple months of bone-chilling winter ahead, November means it is time for me to reach for an especially beloved book once again.
And, moreover, to share some of my thoughts on that very title here with all of you.
The book I’m speaking about is Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala.
This title is not particularly new, having first been released in 1998 (I currently own the fifteenth printing, which came out in 2017). Yet, like many an excellent book, it has qualities that make it both endearing and timeless.
As we will soon dive into, Celtic Folklore Cooking is much more than “just” a compendium of excellent Celtic recipes.
This book is also chock-a-block with engaging Celtic folklore, proverbs, and poetry from countries such as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; and is by far one of the most compressive looks at traditional Celtic cuisine that I have come across.
Name: Celtic Folklore Cooking
Author: Joanne Asala
Page count: 384
A feast for the tastebuds and imagination alike
Have you ever walked into someone’s kitchen, be it for the first time or the five hundredth and instantly felt comfortable, at peace, and warmed from the inside out before you’d even eaten a single morsel of food?
Just as some kitchens and the home cooks behind them are able to impart this sense of nurturing serenity, so too are certain books pertaining to the culinary arts.
Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala is one of those books.
Asala is the author/compiler of more than 25 books pertaining to folklore, fairy tales, cooking, and traditional customs from various parts of Europe. A native of Chicago, she has travelled across the continent extensively to learn and gather information for her books. This point shines out vibrantly in the depth and scope of knowledge that she imparts throughout Celtic Folklore Cooking.
Clocking in at a touch under 400 pages, this hefty paperback title features more than 200 traditional dishes hailing from the land of the Celts.
While this book does not have any photographs or (save for the front cover) colour illustrations, it does house a selection of charming black and white illustrations that accompany some, but not all, of the recipes and tales that this engaging book includes.
No doubt Celtic Folklore Cooking would have been an even more captivating book with colour photos and/or illustrations. Yet, the strength of the author’s writing and the breadth of fascinating folklore covered here adds proverbial colour to each delightful page in its own right and as such, I rarely find myself longing for photos or drawings when reading this book.
On top of the 200+ dishes included in this cookbook, one also finds an enchantingly selection of folktales, poems, proverbs, and customs hailing from traditional Celtic lands, such as Scotland and Ireland.
Before we go any further this review, I should mention that though this book will find favour with many a witch, Wiccan, and Pagan, it was not written solely for that audience.
And while Asala begins her introduction by stating that, “The goal of Celtic Folklore Cooking is to help you select foods to serve at your celebrations of the Sabbats and Esbats”, the dishes and captivating folklore contained within this book can just as easily be utilized for every other day of the year as well.
Celtic Folklore Cooking is a culturally rich, expansive, captivating look at the traditions and history of Celtic cuisine and is bound to appeal to a wide range of readers, both inside and out of the Pagan/witchy sphere.
For those who fall under the former header, you will be interested to know that the author does make a point of mentioning which Pagan sabbats she feels best suit each recipe in the book.
Broadly speaking, I agree with the majority of her choices for corresponding sabbats and if anything, wouldn’t so much change her suggestions as add on an additional sabbat or two in some cases.
Of course, these recipes – like nearly any recipe, for that matter – can be utilized whenever you desire, be it for the sabbats, esbats, or otherwise.
Celtic Folklore Cooking is arranged into the following nine chapters:
-The Celtic Wheel of The Year
-Beverages (which includes recipes for numerous homemade alcoholic beverages such as Mead, Blas Meala, Welsh Posset Cup, Eggnog, and Wassail)
-Breads, Porridges, and Breakfast Foods
-Milk, Eggs, and Cheese
-Soups and Stews
-Fish, Shellfish, and Seaweed
-Meat and Wild Game
In addition, there is an introduction, bibliography and related reading, glossary, and index. The latter of which is especially handy if you’re keen to look up recipes for a specific ingredient.
Speaking of which, a good many of the ingredients called for in these recipes are classic ones that strive to mirror the traditional cuisine of the Celtic nations.
In the very earliest days of our relationship, Tony and I lived in Ireland (ROI) for a couple of years. Getting to experience both contemporary and traditional Irish firsthand in its homeland stands out as one of my most treasured memories from our adventure in the Emerald Isle.
Each time I dip into Celtic Folklore Cooking, I feel as though I am reliving our time in Ireland and the incredible food we got to experience there.
The recipes in this book are accessible and welcoming. Many are relatively simple and quite a few are fairly budget-friendly.
This book is not geared specifically to any one type of diet (such as vegetarianism or eating gluten-free, for example) and, as with the bulk of generalized cookbooks pertaining to almost any cuisine, if you follow a specific type of diet for medical, cultural, religious or other reasons, some of the recipes in Celtic Folklore Cooking may not work for your dietary requirements.
Or, perhaps, in certain instances, you could alter them so that they were able to work. Switching out, say, animal dairy products nut, plant, or seed options instead. Those (like myself) who eat Low FODMAP could also make certain substitutions, such as using the green parts of scallions/spring onions or leeks in place of onions.
These are just a couple of examples, of course. You know your diet and health best, so should hopefully be able to determine if some of the recipes in Celtic Folklore Cooking are able to be adapted to your specific dietary needs or not.
If the answer is “not” across the board, that is 100% okay, naturally, and you may still enjoy the culinary history and folklore that abounds in this book all the same.
It is worth noting that there are some ingredients in this book that were not native to the lands the ancient Celts inhabited and others that have become commonplace mainstays of these corners of Europe in more recent centuries.
This point doesn’t bother me personally, as I feel it is generally unrealistic to expect most 21st century cookbooks to ask readers to solely use ingredients that were available in a given part of the world during a specific long-ago time period.
Another element of this book that does not trouble me, but which might put some readers off a touch is that not all of the recipes are presented in the same format. Some are arranged in paragraph form, while most are laid out in the usual contemporary way of presenting recipes (as in the photo above), starting with their ingredients and then how to prepare and cook a given dish.
I am a massive proponent and long-time adoptee of eating traditionally/ancestrally, eschewing heavily processed foods whenever possible and seeking out healthy local offerings for as much of what we consume as is realistically (and economically) possible.
This book embraces traditional foods, cooking methods, and meals that, in many instances, take longer than a few minutes to bring to the table.
That isn’t to say they are challenging or require ages to prepare or make. With relatively few exceptions this is not the case.
Instead, they are homey, classic dishes (think soups, stews, and hot breakfast cereals, for example) that benefit from decent cooking times and which may taste even better when reheated in the following days after they have been prepared.
These are recipes that encourage you, if so desired and if such is feasible, to live (or to live all the more) in tune with the seasons and the foodstuffs that are most readily available through each chapter of the year.
As you lap up the recipes in Celtic Folklore Cooking, you are treated to a multi-course meal for the mind via the delightful array of folklore tales, proverbs, poetry, and general folk wisdom that Asala has generously peppered throughout the book.
Even if one opted to never cook a single recipe from this book, the Celtic lore, charming folk wisdom, and history that call this title home would make reading Celtic Folklore Cooking more than worth it.
Celtic Folklore Cooking is a terrific year-round cookbook. It boasts an impressive selection of over 200 delicious recipes from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall.
This point is especially refreshing, as it is fairly common for books pertaining to Celtic culture (be it Celtic cuisine or otherwise) to lock their sights on Ireland and budge nary an inch from that one country, when in truth the lands that the Celts called home spanned multiple modern-day countries.
How Celtic Folklore Cooking rates with me
Cooking, the culinary arts, and food history have been some of my greatest passions in life since I was a young child.
Even though the scope of my own diet is profoundly restricted due to needing to eat for/around several different chronic illnesses and I have a metabolism that’s so slow it makes a snail look like a supersonic rocket by comparison, nothing life has thrown my way has dulled this important interest.
I am the kind of person who reads cookbooks with the intensity and interest many reserve for their favourite novels.
Toss not only culinary history and traditions but also folklore into the mix and my head nearly explodes with joy!
Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala ticks each of those boxes and more. It is wonderfully well suited to Pagan/witchy individuals, while being no less appealing or accessible to those who are neither of those things.
The layout of its chapters invites you to read this book cover to cover, eager not only to see what recipe comes next, but to savour the captivating Celtic folklore, proverbs, and traditional writing this book houses in abundance as well.
There are many excellent books on Irish, Scottish, Welsh, (broadly) Celtic and similar cuisine to be had these days, but few marry folklore and wisdom with 200+ recipes – nor do so with the same level of knowledge and passion that Asala liberally garnishes each page in this fantastic book with.
Learning more about the traditions and/or folklore associated with each recipe in this book further endears it to my heart – just as I’m sure it will for many fellow readers as well.
This is the kind of cookbook that you don’t just read once, try out a recipe or two from, tuck it away on a shelf and pretty much forget about.
It is an engaging, beautifully written, well-presented book that honours the culinary traditions of the Celtic lands and presents a true feast’s worth of inviting recipes that are sure to appeal to a wide range of people from around the globe.
With autumn out in full force and winter barrelling around the corner, this is the kind of book I reach for time and time again, not only for our own daily meals, but also when we entertain company and when I’m asked to bring a hearty dish to a meal elsewhere.
In addition, I love that as someone whose ancestry is comprised almost exclusively of Celtic, Norse, Germanic, and Slavic origins, the recipes in this book are likely not far off from some of those that were enjoyed by many generations of my ancestors.
Not to mention the fact that this book is many a kitchen witch’s dream cookbook – particularly if you work with The Wheel of The Year and/or British, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or similar branches/traditions of Druidism, Wicca, and/or witchcraft.
If I could only pick one book about Celtic cookery to work with for the rest of my days, Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala would surely be it.
And as such, it warms my heart every bit as much as one of the truly delicious traditional Celtic recipes it contains to bestow my highest rating on this book.
Working on a scale of 1 – 5, with five being the highest possible rating, I would give Celtic Folklore Cooking 5 stars out of 5.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Have you read Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala? Are you a fellow fan of traditional Celtic cuisine? 🌿📖🍞
Although I’m feeling your melancholy about the passing of the month of October, I’m sure that November will still have some tricks of Autumnal cheer up its sleeve!
The recipes in the Celtic folklore cooking book sound mouth-wateringly delicious.
Thank you for sharing Autumn. xxx
Thank you abundantly, sweet Ann. I am no stranger to the melancholy that can accompany November. Even adoring this month as I do, it can still be tough sometimes to part ways with the warmer days or early fall and to know that a whole calendar (or very nearly so) stands between us and next Halloween/Samhain.
This November has been an intense one – especially in terms of some severe weather conditions that have rocked our province. Knock wood, we have not personally been hit too brutally by them, but they’ve impacted the province as a whole and caused untold millions (if not billions) of dollars of damage.
For that and various other reasons, I doubt I will soon forget this particular November.
On a cheerier note, the recipes and folklore in this wonderful cookery book really are terrific. I’d been itching to review this title for quite some time and am so glad that my blog gave the perfect platform in which to do so this autumn.
Many hugs & the loveliest of wishes for a cozy tail end of fall. 🍂
What a delightful- sounding cookbook. And your review was very interesting and informative. This book certainly seems to be a perfect cookbook for any kitchen.
Enjoy your last weeks of Fall!!🍂🍁
How right you are, my very dear friend. IMO, there are very few people who would not enjoy and/or appreciate at least some elements of Joanne Asala’s fantastic take on Celtic cookery and the rich array of folklore, customs, and sayings she library sprinkled throughout this wonderful book.
I definitely think you’d really like Celtic Folklore Cooking, Debi – especially since it houses many lovely recipes that are absolutely perfect for our beloved fall season.
wow how informative and fab reading. xx
You are blush-inducingly kind, dear Annie. Thank you wholeheartedly.
I had been champing at the bit to review this book since before my (current) blog had even come into being, so getting a chance to do so here this autumn was an especially lovely treat.
There are some other cookery (and kitchen witchery) related books on my shelves that I likewise hope to review on WCL as time goes on. I hope that you’ll enjoy those posts as well, my friend.
This looks like a fun cookbook because I love made-from-scratch soups! I used to sit on the banks of the creek and pick/eat watercress as a child and loved it, so that soup sounds wonderful to me! Looks like a great cookbook!
Same here, dear Carol! Soup was a mainstay of our family meals when I was growing up and my mother’s versions remain some of the tastiest and most nourishing I’ve ever experienced.
In this book, Joanne Asala offers up numerous delightful varieties that are both comforting and delicious as well – making it all the more of an appealing read for us soup fans.
Thank you very much for your lovely comment and for sharing your charming memory of picking and enjoying watercress as a youngster. What a lovely experience!
Sounds like a delightful cookbook, very informative and enjoyable post Autumn!
Thank you sweetly, dear Donna. This is such a terrific book. Even, as touched on in my post, if one never made a single dish from it, the wealth of culinary, cultural, and folklore information it houses makes it well worth the sticker price.
I’ve looked at this book before but being celiac wondered if it had anything I could eat or adapt but it looks simply lovely!
Speaking of books – if you haven’t already I think, Autumn , that you would love the bew “ seasons of a magical life- a pagan path to living” by Byron Ballard. I’m only halfway through and my soul is resonating with almost a weepy yes! It’s just so beautiful – to me it describes the whole God breathed soul of nature – it’s absolutely beautiful to read!:)
Also, I love November – it’s my birthday month near the beginning and I love leading up to Christmas and Yule – but i also love Samhain… I think the ER months are my fav but then again, I think I’m in love with every season and every day!
This is so beautiful!
Thank you very much for your terrific comment, my fellow gluten eschewing soul.
Happiest birthday month wishes! I adore that another point we share in common is being water signs (Cancer and Scorpio, respectively). I tend to get on awesomely + connect deeply with Scorpios, so it does not surprise me at all that this is your sign.
While a good many recipes in this book do include gluten, as a fellow Celiac fighter I have rarely run into issues substituting gluten-free alternatives in their place.
Even, however, as touched on in my review, one were to never make a single recipe from Celtic Folklore Cooking, the wealth of culinary, historical, and folklore information it houses makes a joyful read and well worth a spot on many peoples’ bookshelves.
Speaking of which, thank you very much for your lovely reading recommendation. I sincerely appreciate it and will bump Seasons of a Magickal Life (which I have been eyeing for numerous months now) much higher up my to read list.
Your literary recommendations and reviews are always appreciated, so please feel free to share others here with me anytime you desire.
Many hugs & the bevy of the very sweetest, most positive b-day month wishes coming your way!
A fascinating review Autumn, I was brought up on traditional Scottish fare and these recipes are similar to those prepared by both my grandmothers,one was from rural North East and the other from the North West coast of Scotland,so they had slightly different takes on traditional meals, nothing was wasted,I still use a farmhouse cookbook.
Thank you abundantly, sweet Meg. What a beautiful and delicious culinary upbringing to experience.
My heart, soul, and taste buds alike adore Scottish (and Celtic in general) cuisine. It is so warming and satisfying, while also feeling truly familiar to me – even though I myself was not raised on it.
I adore that you continue to use a classic farmhouse cookbook. Thank you for sharing that special fact with me. 💗
What a great book review Autumn. The recipe’s sound delicious and look very easy to make. I love the old feel of the book and the black and white photos. It reminds me of a cook book that I have- it was my husband’s grandmother. I didn’t know her but you can tell the cook book was very loved! Take care and enjoy your week ahead.
Big hugs, Tammy x
Thank you very much, dear Tammy. I really appreciate your lovely memory and that you shared with me about the vintage cookbook that came down to you via your DH’s grandma. What an awesome family heirloom to receive and get to enjoy throughout the years.
Prior to the arson fire we experienced back in 2016, I had a fairly decent sized collection of vintage and antique cookbooks and recipe booklets. Rebuilding it hasn’t really been possible for me yet and I accept that may never happen. I still love and enjoy vintage recipe sources every bit as much as did before the fire though and am thankful that some older recipes can be found online these days.
Giant hugs & the happiest of late fall time wishes coming your way in return.
Love the warm comfort of fall and winter food! Great book to cover all of those great foods! And I absolutely loved your intro to this post…”November has returned, its path lit by millions of glowing jack-o-lanterns and the vibrancy of early fall that is now mellowing to a muted, earthy palette just waiting for a blanket of winter snow to cocoon the present season.” What a beautiful way to describe my favorite time of the year. I’m a fall/winter girl for sure!
Thank you so much, my lovely friend and fellow autumn adoring soul.
It genuinely touches me deeply when someone finds that my writing resonates with them so much they quote a part of it.
We were treated to a very pretty start of November. Not the warmest ever, but it still had a lot of early fall’s sparkle to it. In true Canadian fashion though, winter soon came calling and we’re now back to shovelling snow like it was an all-out Olympic event. 😄
Even still though, subtle elements of autumn remain. Their voices may be growing quieter under an ever thicker blanket of snowflakes, but they have not gone silent again entirely.
I hope that your November is going wonderfully and that you have a really beautiful, safe, enjoyable tail end of our beloved fall time.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’m always looking for new cooking ideas, especially when they come from a foreign culture with history behind it.
You are thoroughly welcome, my dear friend and fellow culinary arts enthusiast.
I highly suspect that you would enjoy this captivating look at some of the history, folklore and recipes of the Celtic lands – especially if you’re keen on classic comfort food.
I’m not familiar with Celtic cooking at all, but I would love to read this book. I will check my library for it. Celtic culture and tradition is fascinating. I’m sure their cooking was just as interesting…and as you said, perfect for Autumn and the colder months. It is great that this book contains 200+ book recipes. That sounds great! Plus, I love that the book also contains information about Celtic culture. Lovely book review, thanks for sharing.
Thank you sweetly, dear Ivana. This is a wonderfully charming and informative book.
I hope that you’re able to track it down and that you enjoy it every bit as much as I long have. IMO, it is a stellar introduction to Celtic cookery – both from centuries past and more recent times as well.
Big hugs coming your way,
Well I have to say that I tend to get really melancholy myself after the Halloween Season is finished as I feel my mood shift drastically this time of year and I have a hard time concentrating for sure! Your recipe and book review all sound so comforting and bring some much needed warmth. Thanks for sharing friend!
Thank you very much, sweet Vicki – both for your lovely comment and for sharing that you are no stranger to the “November blues”, so to speak, as well.
Mercifully, they didn’t impact me too hard this year – though I suspect that stemmed in part from a number of rather substantial issues that have arisen this month, including the fact that a big chunk of our province was hit by horrific flooding.
Thank the stars above, our area hasn’t suffered too severely from the flooding, but BC as a whole is reeling massively. The damage is extensive and will take a long time to rebuild from – including part of one of the province’s largest highways that was utterly demolished.
On a much more upbeat note, while now wearing a cloak of snow, fall is still here in some ways around our wee town and I’m continuing to savour each precious, fleeting moment of it.
I hope that your November is going positively and that thoughts of next October are helping to make the passing of this year’s a bit easier to bear.
Tons of hugs & heartfelt understanding,
Looks like an interesting cook book. I love the colours of Autumn and the cozy feel of home. Enjoy your week. x
Thank you very much, lovely Anesha. It really is a terrific book – not only for the wealth of tasty recipes it houses, but also for the treasure trove of folklore, history, and proverbs/sayings this title includes as well.
If you should ever have the chance to pick up or borrow a copy, I suspect that you’ll really enjoy Celtic Folklore Cooking as well.
I have put this book on hold at the library – the cover just draws me in! And a person can never have too many cookbooks in their arsenal, can they? Thank you for the review and bringing a new cookery book to my attention!
You are wholeheartedly welcome, my very dear friend. I suspect that you’re going to absolutely adore this awesome collection of Celtic recipes swirled with charming, fascinating folklore, folk wisdom and (folk/traditional) proverbs.
It is terrific that your library was/is able to get this book in for you. Please don’t hesitate to share your own thoughts on Celtic Folklore Cooking with me anytime. I’m all ears! (Or would that be “all eyes” when chatting online?)