Cooking and The Supernatural

By April 16, 2024April 18th, 2024Blog, The Power of Cooking


Written by Sophie Lipitz, TSC Chef Educator

I arrived at cooking at the intersection of loving to eat and loving to be outside. What I didn’t realize at the outset of my journey is that being a professional chef would guarantee neither. My story is a bit of a boomerang. A farm kid to a big fancy cook and essentially, back to a farm kid. 

Throughout my career in food, one thing has remained constant: the belief that food is as meaningful as you make it. It can be vacant or potent. Ephemeral or lasting. It’s a choice. I find, with intention, food can be magic. In my classes at The Sylvia Center, I teach the students that chefs are alchemists and that we can transform anything, even the world. 

In 2018, after years of working in sad basement kitchens with sparse sunlight, I took time off from my fine-dining job in Boston to work for free at a week-long farm camp in the Berkshires. With a gang of 6–13-year-old NYC urbanites, we dug our food from the ground, foraged greens from the edges of the river, and prepared our meals over fire, with the sun on our backs. The first days were tough. Rooting for potatoes and picking watercress was a far cry from the convenience of Doordash and Uber Eats these little ones had become used to. But slowing down and making way for nature simply takes time. Once you’re in the rhythm, it just clicks. 

One of my most cherished memories of Farm Camp was a tea-making workshop I held with Jessa Blades, a naturalist and teacher. It was early in the program, homesickness was running high, and we were teaching through a garden of complaints. Jessa explained to the kids that the tea we were infusing was not just absorbing the flavor of the herbs and flowers we had gathered, but also the wishes and energy we would put into it. We were spellcasting. Wielding such power perked them up, fast. Jars of sumac, chamomile, nettles, mint, and tulsi were passed from small hand to small hand and each whispered into the jar a quiet intention. Favorites were inscribed and their wishes were spellbound—my favorite:super powor, medataishion, good tasttea.

As we teach through The Sylvia Center’s relationship with Katchkie Farm, this connection to the earth can supercharge our food. It’s the elusive extra-special thing that transforms food from simple ingredients to pure magic. Seasonal, hand-harvested food tastes better, but meaningful food tastes the best.  Nature, if you listen carefully, can dictate what’s for dinner. Growing up on the farm I understood this connection. Then I forgot, and, thankfully, remembered again. 

As a Chef Educator at the Sylvia Center, I aim to make fresh produce as impactful for the students as it has been for me. I feel so lucky to teach here in the Hudson Valley where we see nature’s minute changes outside our windows daily. It isn’t so outlandish here for me to look to the woods to decide what to cook as it once was in my city life.

If you aren’t already using your magic in your meals, this well-worn spell of intention is for a soup that can hug you from the inside out: This soup will warm your stomach. Every part of you it passes will be given a tender touch. On its journey, it will carry away your pains and anxieties because it was grown, cooked, and given with love. 

Until next month, be powerful in the kitchen!

Sophie Lipitz, Chef Educator