Lisanna Wallance calls herself a “culinary witch,” but forget any preconceptions you might have about her form of magic. Wallance is very much grounded in reality and science, and her “potions” consist of recipes based on natural remedies that, according to the blurb for her new book, are “enchantments to boost the immune system, alter your mood, induce sleep and calm, give you energy or focus or simply indulgence and pleasure.”
“The Natural Witch’s Cookbook,” published in September by Skyhorse, is subtitled “100 Magical Healing Recipes & Herbal Remedies to Nourish Body, Mind and Spirit.” The book features gorgeous photography and fun, often witty, introductions to each recipe. Each section represents one of the four elements — fire, water, earth, and air — with recipes appropriate for the theme. For example, “Air” includes a recipe called Turkey for Sleep, which combines the famously tryptophan-rich main ingredient with items that enhance serotonin-producing properties, such as calcium-rich vegetables and feta cheese.
The magic lies in the food combinations, and Wallance has clearly done her research, as evidenced by the book’s descriptions of the chemical properties of the ingredients. The culinary witch’s mission to help others heal sprang from her own struggles with a complex, chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which comes with innumerable co-morbidities.
Wallance describes her trials with the condition: “It causes a collagen mutation that affected every system in my body. I suffered severe chronic pain. I found myself in front of all types of doctors, and I was having adverse reactions to all the medications they were giving me. I couldn’t work anymore. I couldn’t walk down the street.”
Eventually, Wallance turned to a homeopathic solution. ”Since my childhood I’ve always been connected to nature and plants,” says the New York City native, who spent every summer at her parents’ home on the Vineyard.
The self-cure worked and, as she puts it, “I got my strength and my empowerment back. The illness took so much away, but now it’s brought me back to my original love of nature.”
Now the author wants to share her form of magic with others. “The cookbook is a culmination of all that knowledge,” she says. “I wanted to stop always thinking about myself and my problems and start thinking about how I can take all this suffering and everything I’ve learned to help others.” So far she’s received great feedback, including from people who have found relief from pain and other symptoms through her book’s suggestions. “It’s been so wonderful to see people find magic and happiness from something that was so difficult for me.”
Along with the book, the Culinary Witch website, culinarywitch.com, is loaded with recipes for healing and natural beauty, tips and tricks, and loads of gorgeous photos that she styles and takes herself.
Wallance hopes to debunk the traditional image of the evil witch. “My use of the symbol of the witch is much more science-based,” she says. “Not the Disney or Shakespeare anti-feminist version. The witches who were persecuted were healers I admire and try to emulate. My approach is based on nature and sustainability. After all, sublimation of the natural world is the true art of the witch.”
On her website, Wallance writes, “The craft of potions, brews, medicinal herbs, beauty elixirs, and healing concoctions is a distinctly culinary one. The magic that takes place in the kitchen is one of the most ancient forms of witchcraft.”
If ever the world needed a bit of magic (as well as a reverence for science), it’s now. “In this time of horror, people who may not be interested in religion are looking for something to give them power and control in their lives,” says the author. “My goal is to provide potions to protect people and help them find ways to regain control over their minds and bodies.”
“Adopting this perspective of the witch has helped me to feel empowered and in control of my body,” writes Wallance. “Through studying and experimenting with healing foods and plants in a never-ending quest to understand the complexity of the body and treat my symptoms, I have managed to regain control back over my entire life. I will always have this condition, but now I know how to respond to whatever my body throws at me.”