The Magic of Baking

Posted by Fe Bongolan

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Fe Bongolan takes readers along her journey from giving to the point of self-depletion, and disowning her maternal instincts, to a place of full embodiment of her North Node and Ceres: as one who has learned to receive as much joy and sustenance from creating beautiful food for others as she gives to those whom she feeds.

Harvest. The fall has a special place in my heart for what it brings — the reward for hard work put into the land, its trees, flowers and fruit. This weekend I was at my sister’s house baking pies and cakes, using the sugary-sweet Bartlett pears harvested from trees growing on their land. On the menu for me were a dark-chocolate pear tort and a pear-fig tart.

The kitchen is the alchemical lab: tending the flame under the pot, watching ingredients meld together in the bowl and then in the oven. I get a sensual joy in molding cold butter into flour, water and egg to make a dough, and then rolling the dough to the right thickness.

There is pleasure in working dough around a fruit that benefits from cooking, softening and ripening from the heat of the oven. I love experimenting with the already natural sweetness of the fruit by adding spices and condiments that never overwhelm, but frame the flavors already there naturally. These experiences are magic to me.

Yes, my Aquarian Sun, Gemini Moon and Venus in Sagittarius compel me to write about politics. Yet, my Jupiter and Uranus conjunct in Cancer in the 5th house reverberate all the way into my 11th house of community — where my Ceres is governed by Capricorn, close to my North Node. It is there where my family and friends gather in anticipation of a meal cooked by me.

The kitchen is a place where I utilize my art degree to the fullest, embodying everything I’ve learned from my family and friends in my 60 years on this planet. Along with theater, the kitchen is a place where my personal history and creative proclivity collide to benefit an always appreciative audience on a very substantive level.

It wasn’t always like that. There were lessons I needed to learn. Seven years ago, while visiting Eric in upstate New York, we were preparing dinner while working together on the Planet Waves annual series. Cooking as I always do, I mentioned in passing — almost resignedly — “Yes, I can cook. I cook too well, in fact. Everybody wants me to cook for them. I feel so much like a Mom, even though I’ll never have kids!” Eric responded by turning that around on me saying, “Never abandon that maternal, nurturing side of yours. It’s a huge source of power — own it!”

Even though Eric knew my chart, his comment confused me. Confused by my own maternal inclinations, I was struggling with a part of me that still needed to define freedom for myself. How could I celebrate something I was so conflicted about? A talent to nurture that brought me so much grief because I felt so under-appreciated for it? How could Eric suggest that I relish and celebrate a side of me that, at the time, I perceived as servitude?

My perceptions then were based on carrying baggage from a history of giving away too much nurturing energy in my relationships. I mistook my proclivity to give as something I had to do all the time. I gave too much, most of the time doing so without being receptive to receiving back. I felt myself a victim of my own gifts. I was carrying a subservient mindset — always tending to the needs of others first, with little idea how to be receptive to reciprocation, or how to communicate my own needs to others. I gave too much so I wouldn’t receive.

Some of that mindset was cultural. Filipino women of my mother’s generation were taught to be the quiet, giving force behind their man, submerging their needs and strength for the needs of their mate. And my mother’s example was the imprint of femininity that I carried into early adulthood, and subsequently into my relationships.

Using that example in relationships, it was as if I was constantly carrying two large baskets of fruit: one for others, and the other for myself. Habitually, it was the basket for others that was fuller, heavier and laden with luscious fruit, while my own was meager. Needless to say, carrying more weight for others on one side eventually does “tip you over.” A bout with deep depression and months of therapy put me on that long road to find out what I wanted.

I needed to embrace that overwhelming need of mine to nurture — the quality Eric found as a strength in my chart, but back then I never thought that it was. I struggled with recognizing and appreciating my own power, wants and needs. That had to become primary practice — the yoga of self. To employ the plane flight metaphor: I had to place the oxygen mask on myself first, to break myself out of the over-nurturing rut I experienced in my relationships.

My talent for nurturing had to evolve to a level where I could do it with enjoyment, creating something for the plate that was a full embodiment of personal energy and spirit, not servitude. This for me was my journey to my 11th house, where my Capricornian Ceres and North Node co-exist.

Cooking and baking are now my passions, which I pursue like a dance, preferably when I have the physical energy and the time to make it truly enjoyable for myself and others. These talents to nurture and sustain others had to mature to a level where I would get something back for giving — not only monetarily, but energetically. The kitchen had to become a place of magic and joy for me. I think, by and large, by accepting my power and energy flow as a constant and equal exchange — going out and coming back in — I have succeeded.

As a friend of mine once said recently, “Fe, cooking — for you — is a form of meditation.” Another said, “Fe, you are a magician with food.” I’d like to think that I am. As I walked the road of this life leading to the fields of Ceres, I came to accept a natural part of myself I once denied. I’ve given myself the chance to sustain and enrich myself and others, on the plate and in spirit.

Leaning in, I lift out a freshly baked pear pie from a hot oven. I can feel the harvest goddess’ breath on me while the smell of a golden, butter crust and bubbling fruit comes from what I made with my hands. The experience is a gift from Ceres, leaving me full of thanks for her help in re-claiming a large part of me.

Posted in Columnist on | 22 comments
Fe Bongolan

About Fe Bongolan

Planet Waves writer Fe Bongolan lives in Oakland, California. Her column, "Fe-911," has been featured on Planet Waves since 2008. As an actor and dramaturge, Fe is a core member of Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," producing work that empowers the voices of all women in trouble, from ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS, to young girls and women at risk. A Planet Waves fan from almost the beginning of Eric's astrology career, Fe is a public sector employee who describes herself as a "mystical public servant." When it comes to art, culture and politics, she loves reading between the lines.

22 thoughts on “The Magic of Baking

  1. Barbara Koehler

    Finally, we are giving Ceres her proper due. Thank you Fe, your story speaks to the story of women, for so long in serving roles. Even though Ceres the nurturer is found in the charts (the make-up) of men as well as women, food preparation was, in most cultures, considered subservient and a role most often filled by women. The mere fact that Ceres was a powerful goddess in her time suggests that sharing food and mealtimes, as Eric noted in his article on Ceres, was extremely important. I presume that Ceres, like other goddesses, was demoted in certain cultures, out of a fear men had of her power, and so we became polarized; men opposite women.

    Ironically, trans. Ceres has just passed over the U.S. Sibly chart’s Pluto at 27+ Capricorn. You were probably writing this piece at that time. We think of Pluto as supreme power, and with Ceres we think of something stolen by him from her. They are just beginning a new cycle now, U.S. Sibly Pluto and transiting Ceres, and maybe this story of yours is meant to “serve” as a consciousness raising – an awareness of a new way at looking at old rituals and ceremonies.

    The Sun will square Ceres on Thursday, the 22nd, the same day that Hillary Clinton testifies before the Benghazi committee. I’ve noted (at PlanetWaves) that on that day transiting Saturn will arrive at the last degree of his retrograde shadow, 3+ Sagittarius. It is a degree that resonates with (and activates) 3 different charts of present-day cycles between slow moving planets, each having a symbol occupying 3+ Sagittarius. That’s not where your Venus is by any chance, is it? That day when Saturn reaches 3+ Sagittarius he will also form a sesqui-quadrate aspect with trans. Uranus, with whom he shares rulership over Aquarius, where your Sun is. Saturn suggests old ways and Uranus suggests new ways of seeing all things Aquarian.

    I believe Hillary Clinton might also raise some consciousness levels in this time of changing views of power vs. servitude. Two of the 3 charts of cycles that have a symbol at 3+ Sagittarius (where Saturn will be on the 22nd) have Neptune as one of the two participants, and Neptune creates. Both charts have a cluster of symbols around the same degree of Aquarius where the U.S. Sibly chart’s Moon resides. These 2 cycles (Neptune and Pluto and Neptune and Uranus) appear to have something to say to the U.S. people (each with their emphasis on late Aquarius ruled by both Saturn and Uranus) .

    Hillary Clinton has natal Pallas (the same goddess who, in the U.S. Sibly chart conjuncts the Moon at 27+ Aquarius) conjunct (same degree as) the U.S. Moon. The transiting Sun will be square transiting Ceres on Thursday, but on Wednesday, the Sun will trine the U.S. Moon and Hillary’s natal Pallas. It strikes me that you and Hillary are part of a big (and long-time coming to fruition) plan that is re-shaping the traditional roles of women, at least in American (as goes America, so goes the world, right?)

    I think it’s wonderful that you have a gift for making people happy Fe. If you think about it, it might also just be a tool for making the world a better place. Maybe this new cycle between trans. Ceres and U.S. Pluto is a turning point. Maybe trans. Saturn awakening long-running cycles that same day, and his sesqui-quadrate with Uranus will affect Aquarian planets like the U.S. Moon and Hillary Clinton’s Pallas, all over the world. Thanks to Uranus the whole world will get to see Hillary, possibly at her finest hours (her natal Pallas trines her natal Uranus in Gemini!)
    be

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

      Be:

      I was so looking forward to your response to this. My Venus is at 25 Sag in the 10th.

      Ironically, trans. Ceres has just passed over the U.S. Sibly chart’s Pluto at 27+ Capricorn. You were probably writing this piece at that time. We think of Pluto as supreme power, and with Ceres we think of something stolen by him from her. They are just beginning a new cycle now, U.S. Sibly Pluto and transiting Ceres, and maybe this story of yours is meant to “serve” as a consciousness raising – an awareness of a new way at looking at old rituals and ceremonies.

      There were a number of themes I was feeling while writing this: Eric’s writing yesterday on Ceres, the harvest, which has an incredible energy regardless of whether you live in urban or rural areas, and my personal journey.

      I was always looking at the four main areas of my life — theater, art, politics and cooking as distant, isolated worlds that I ran back and forth from and to, when they really aren’t. They are four separate elements of my life united by the one theme: sustenance, which draws in my North Node and Ceres. It’s goddess energy running through.

      The art of giving pleasure should be a life skill taught to everyone, boys and girls, men and women. Its the reason why we have a body — to continue to sustain ourselves and our tribe. These are my Aquarian ideals at work.

      For me it is about nourishment, farm-to-table, and health. (Ah Ceres!!!). Wouldn’t mind if this was Fe 2.0 after I retire from my 9-5, with a bit of theater woven in.

      1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

        “I was always looking at the four main areas of my life — theater, art, politics and cooking as distant, isolated worlds that I ran back and forth from and to, when they really aren’t. They are four separate elements of my life united by the one theme: sustenance … It’s goddess energy running through.”

        I really like that way of framing it all, or of braiding the threads. Gives me a new way to look at my Ceres, which flanks my Pisces Midheaven with Juno on the other side. I’ve long known that my creative pursuits, other passions and career callings tend to cross-pollinate and feed each other. Yet somehow I had not thought to categorize them all with such a simple, single yet comprehensive word: sustenance. Fun to contemplate in all its various permutations and levels.

        1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

          Thanks Amanda. I thought you would resonate with this piece.

          The theme really helps strengthen the purpose, doesn’t it? The “braiding” of your pursuits makes all you do an expression of that theme. Maybe we’re getting close to the meaning of one’s life, though I dare not say that yet about my role in providing sustenance. I want to see how that theme fans out — what adventure will it guide me to? All of it is exciting.

          I have come to appreciate my college art degree, which is heavily applied in my cooking, and my cooking, where its organizational demands have made me a better contracts manager — (“The Art of Mise-en-place” – “everything ready in its place”). As for theater — well the Muse is everywhere. Its a state of being in all my pursuits, at the desk or in the kitchen. The Drama Queen does rule, quietly.

      2. Barbara Koehler

        United by sustenance AND creativity Fe. Your Uranus in Cancer is also benefiting the changes (adjustments) that the sign Aquarius is going through as trans. Saturn and Uranus tweak their mutually ruled sign on Thursday. The masses must eat, right? Why not enjoy the eating.

        As for your Venus at 25+ Sagittarius, her source of inspiration, the Galactic Center is the same source of inspiration the outer planets (Neptune, Uranus, Pluto) draw on. It’s all good!
        be

        1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author

          Ms. Be:

          I ALWAYS look forward to your analysis. So helpful to have your look at the chart as it blossoms before your eyes.

          Yes, agreed. Sustenance IS linked in to creativity, as is most of the other aspects in my life. In my 9-5 life, I have very supportive colleagues and boss – he loves to be the point of attention, but isn’t egotistical about it.

          His staff, 90% women in engineering, architecture and public administration (me), keep him in check. He has a great sense of humor, loves the theater and we respect each other immensely. My theater life, well you know about it — there the writing and performing and listening to words as music has been a mind blower and has really helped me to see spectacle in a whole new light and meaning. Never two-dimensional.

          As for cooking, a compatriot from the International Body Music Festival — for which I am Director of Hospitality while in the US (and the caterer for 50 + musicians from around the world) once said to me:

          “Fe — your food is music.”

          To which I replied: “Marcelo, your music is food!”

  2. DeborahDeborah

    Beautiful, Ms. Fe. So relatable to women of most, if not all cultures where girls are to be seen and not heard. Our patriarchy loves to keep us barefoot, pregnant, and cooking. Quiet service with a smile becomes impossible when you run low on self. Your return to your soul essence smells so good, I’d love to watch you perform a meal sometime. Your theater chops combined with all that Ceres food creation expressed with pure love…now THAT’s entertainment! ( mmmm food porn)

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author

      Deborah:

      Don’t tempt me. But I do love to do “performance cooking”, meaning the family gets to watch while I cook. In fact my sister’s kitchen was remodeled based on my needs as a cook, and her family’s desire to witness. This is how my niece and nephew learned to appreciate cooking, and inspired them to seek out culinary experiments on their own. So she and her husband opened up their kitchen with much surface and prep space and seating area for the “audience”. Its fun to cook there. I try to get down there as much as I can as a kind of respite from my office life.

  3. LizzyLizzy

    Yes, such an exquisite, mouthwatering piece, dear Fe! Can so relate to your beautiful journey of learning how to give and receive. Also made me think of my dear Libran friend, who is a fantastic cook and knows how to create wonderful gatherings. In recent years she has taken over her late husband’s business – and is applying these same gifts to the business world, in a magical way .

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author

      Your friend must have a North Node activation going on in Ceres too! I hope she is making the food an adventure in pleasure in the business world, where a human touch is probably most welcome.

      Is she cooking for businesses or is she in her husband’s business?

      1. LizzyLizzy

        Well actually Fe, there’s not much cooking involved – it’s more that she’s applying her skills of looking after people and putting them at their ease, organizing large gatherings, and general creativity to running her husband’s business.

        1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

          Sounds like for her, nurturing — a feminine principle — IS a business practice. So glad of it having a value in running another type of business.

          In the food industry — at least on a small personal scale it definitely is a business practice. Every food from hand to mouth has to be attributed to the care going into its creation, start to finish.

          Which brings us to the industrialization of food and the losses herein of food safety, nutritive value and toxicity to the rest of nature affected. Ceres has much to contend with BigAgra. (Hmmm — almost looks like Viagra!)

  4. Mary

    I feel such a kinship, Fe, with my north node conjunct ceres (and Venus) in 11th house Capricorn … nothing fills me up like cooking and baking for a group. Sent a batch of my beloved oatcakes to eric once, though not sure he ever received them. Something about manifesting the scotish side of my clan is a joy hard to define in mere words.

    Enjoyed, truly, the fruits of your labor, Fe. Thank you for sharing.
    Mary

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

      Mary:

      You so nailed it.

      Baking is really a fulfilling experience on a soul level for me as well. What I wouldn’t give to hang out with you bakers in Scotland and rural England. The folks have got pastry down to a fine fine art!!!

  5. Amy Elliott

    Ah, Ceres.

    She’s in Taurus in the 8th – opposite Uranus and square my Nodes. I have a very…shadowy…relationship with food. I like to have as little to do with it as possible, and yet I overeat and as a consequence I have the body of a goddess…Venus of Willendorf.

    I have that same reaction to cooking as you describe, Fe. I balk at the idea of being stuck in a kitchen. I have a lot of respect for the ability to cook, and can produce a passable meal myself (I’m not being modest here – they really are just passable). But I can’t stand the idea of that being a limitation. Hardly a surprise with Ceres being so closely connected with the only sodding water planet in my chart.

    Trouble is, I have Demeter (a more minor asteroid) and Eros conjunct Venus on my MC. So at some point, like you, I’ve got to find a way to work with this feminine, nurturing side of myself, the one that’s so utterly frightening when I think about it, and yet governs most of my behavioural patterns anyway.

    Damn, drat and blast it all. :)
    Amy

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

      I have that same reaction to cooking as you describe, Fe. I balk at the idea of being stuck in a kitchen. I have a lot of respect for the ability to cook, and can produce a passable meal myself (I’m not being modest here – they really are just passable). But I can’t stand the idea of that being a limitation.

      Amy:

      I think for me the appreciation for my cooking gifts came when I realized how valued they were outside of my own body-conscious and food-indulged Western Culture. That played a part in the judgement of myself — holding up to the cultural norm of attractiveness when thats only a percentage of perception of what is beautiful, healthy and whole.

      I had to become whole myself before I could accept my gifts, and by the time I was seeing a therapist, I realized that my weight problem (particularly as a child) was only a symptom of a larger feeling of being under loved, using food as the substitute for love, since parents were out there in the world working themselves to the bone.

      But as was commented in Eric’s piece on Ceres above, “food is not love, food is made with love.” Those words in particular have stayed with me as I wrote this piece. It was coming to a point of self-acceptance — an ongoing process by the way, that allowed me to see what I am capable of. The same energy inhabits what I cook for myself — and how much I need to eat. Trying to eat large meals when you have an exercise schedule is difficult. You end up eating small meals throughout the day, which aids your muscles and stamina.

      I have had to retire judgements on myself and my body as it is, which was another step on the road in the “yoga of self.” We human beings are complex skeins to unravel.

  6. Barbara Koehler

    There’s something to be said about trust in the meal preparer too. Personally, I’ve given up eating almost anywhere public, especially the fast food places. To those people in the kitchens, it’s just a job, and likely not even a job that fulfills them. Even if they don’t do nasty things to your burger or chili, they were unhappy when they prepared it and that unhappiness is passed on to the consumer.

    A happy cook will prepare a happy meal, and unlike McDonalds version, that happiness is passed on to the consumer as well. Not all of us will experience the Joy of Cooking, but we should all experience the joy of a good meal and a full tummy, at least most of us in this country. Something else Ceres is addressing all the time.
    be

  7. this one

    Thank you all for this nourishing discussion about food, roles, values, performance, gender, time, etc.
    Last week I just had to take the sourdough out of the fridge and make the first loaf since spring. It was a real montage of flours with store bought yeast, the bread machine, and even organic whole rice krispies when it all seemed too wet. Not perfect but well risen with the nourishing feel one seeks.
    Life is going similarly lately, more eclectic and negotiated and satisfying.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

      Hey This One:

      Yours is the third comment on the web (as well as in Facebook by non-astrology commenters) where people have been “feeling Ceres” by baking — anything — pies, bread, cake. Its as if Ceres planted seeds in us this spring which harvested around this time, and we’re getting busy with our ovens.

      Even though I need to keep my gluten intake to a bare minimum, there is a seed bread recipe that I want to try that uses psyllium as a binder. It apparently toasts up beautifully and is great for any number of spreads. Ready to get moving on that one this weekend!!

  8. Evie Gerontis

    Wonderful article. I grew up in restaurants….I’m Greek…it’s what we do. :)

    Now, being a single woman without children, the time I spend with those I love – breaking bread around a table – are precious. Whether it is home-cooked or at one of my favorite local, farm 2 table joints….the connection is always the main focus. Breaking bread with people is how we create our sense of community. It’s how we honor our families and friends, celebrate our milestones and traditions, gather our colleagues and visionaries, mediate with our adversaries and competitors, and how we nourish our souls and bodies.

    It is hard to not connect with another’s humanity after you have sat across the table from them and looked them eye-to-eye. Whether it is the simplest of meals or the most extravagant and orchestrated epicurean adventure – it is in the sharing, the preparation, the intention and connection that we are reminded of who we are.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan

      Evie:

      Happy to meet you here! And welcome!!! I loved your words about sharing bread at the table. It is a profound experience we need daily to nurture our human and familial connection.

      I’ve been studying all the comments on this thread, and the themes I’ve been picking up aside from sustenance is “ritual” and “holy”. I think modern culture shunted aside the sacrificial aspect to make the food we eat. That life sustains life, and the preparation of food is a holy act. We’ve gone far too over the rails of convenience, taking us away from the cycle of life that goes into our bodies.

      So many people on this planet are aware — especially after generations and seasons of want due to war, natural disaster and political instability — of the sacredness of sustenance. These should not be taken for granted. For ourselves and for others.

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