Tarot & Food: Death & Shepard’s Pie

Death, World Spirit Tarot

Mindfulness came in an unusual lesson for me. Death is what it took. Look, I don’t know about you, but when Death hits in my life, I need comfort food and I need it now. I don’t want to wait for a pie to bake or a roast to roast. I need something fast and hot and completely familiar to remind me that “this too shall pass.” Death is about hard, unyielding change and sometimes it is about physical loss.

What I need is my ultimate favorite comfort food, Shepard’s Pie. I almost always have the ingredients for it even when I am destitute. Let me share a story with you about the synchronicity of the pie that is the shepard’s. The one I now call Death Pie.

Back in the 90’s I lived in Lansing, MI on what can only be called the wrong side of the capital building. For those of you familiar with Lansing, I lived on Lahoma which was on the west side of the capital. Right. The side where you heard gunshots in the day, too.

My across-the-street-just-a-few-houses-down neighbors were Max and Bud. Max and Bud had been married forever and a week according to Maxine. Bud was one of those people you just never forget. He and Max had lived in that house on Lahoma street from when it was a good neighborhood through to the current incarnation of a drug and crime ridden slum.

And no one ever bothered them because they were the heart of the neighborhood. One night, my partner and I noticed an ambulance at their place. We didn’t worry too much because Bud had some heart problems so he occasionally had to make sudden trips to the ER.

The next morning we learned that Bud had died in his sleep. I was heartbroken. Max’s pain devastated me because I didn’t know what to do for her. So I did what any Southern woman would do. I turned to my fridge.

And realized I had nothing. T and I were living on someone else’s shoestrings–that’s how bad it was then. But I was determined to take them something so I dug out my last can of corn and my last roll of meat. Shepard’s pie wouldn’t have been my first choice for a dish to take to someone’s house like this, but it was my only option.

Max was at the funeral home when I walked over so I left the dish in the hands of another neighbor watching the house. I went home and cried for Max who had just lost her best friend. I cried for myself because I just felt so lost at the point. Realizing how broke we were and how far down in life I’d come really tore me up.

That night, Max came over. She didn’t come in. She just stood on my porch with this stunned look on her face and asked me, “How did you know?” When I asked her what she meant, a tear slipped down her softly wrinkled cheek.

“Last night before Bud went to bed, he asked me if I would make shepard’s pie for supper. I told him I would.” She grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “You made him his shepard’s pie. Thank you.” She also told me that she felt Bud must have come across the street since he knew she’d be too busy with funeral arrangements. She gave me a quick hug. “Bud always did love you girls.”

Death had not just come calling at Bud and Max’s that night. It had come strolling across the street into my world. I am grateful that I was able to answer Bud’s desire for shepard’s pie. I am grateful that I was able to get past my own feelings of inadequacy to just make the dish and deliver it. I learned a lot of lessons on Lahoma street but this is one that really stuck with me.

Shepard’s pie will always make me think of death but also of how we need to take care of ourselves. Comfort foods take care of us. Whether it is by reminding us of our childhood or some point in our lives, food can reacquaint us with those memories. So here’s a recipe for something fast, something comforting, and something that reminds me to listen to my gut even when I am sad.

Shepard’s Pie

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes, cooked
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 TBS butter
  • Salt,Pepper

Melt the butter. Saute the onion and garlic til the onions are translucent. Brown the hamburger meat in the same pan with the onions and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. I throw in some Tony’s Chachere’s. Drain the grease off.

Place the meat mixture in a deep oven-safe casserole dish. Put the corn in next. Sometimes I put the corn in first, then the meat. Put a cup of cheese on for the next layer. Now smooth the mashed potatoes over it like frosting. If you love potatoes, make more. Now put the rest of the cheese on top of the potatoes.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. I like the cheese all melty with bits of brown on the edges.

This is perfect for an evening meal where you throw together a salad and maybe some bread. Easy-peasy comfort food.

So what is your comfort food?

And are you doing NaNoWriMo? I am! I’m using 33 Days To Finish Your Book. What’s your secret weapon?

17 thoughts on “Tarot & Food: Death & Shepard’s Pie”

  1. Hmm…
    Mac & Cheese.

    While I love shepard’s pie, Mac & Cheese does it for me. It is something I know I can eat at anytime with anything.

  2. Oh, Arwen,
    What a story. It’s difficult to even begin to count all the truths imparted by that sad event. Your openness allowed the participants to dip into the circle of love that started with Max and Bud, and widen the effects to so many others — including us, the readers of your story. Thank you!

    LucyD´s last blog post..Then Along Came Mary

  3. This is weird (for me), but oddly comforting. Late yesterday afternoon, my family had to have our eldest dog put to sleep. We knew he was sick, but it was much worse than anyone suspected (until last week).

    I somehow managed to fall asleep for a while, waking up after my parents had left (which upset me – I’d wanted to be awake to say goodbye, in case he wasn’t coming back). Later on, mum asked me if I wanted anything to eat – she’d made Shepherd’s Pie… I couldn’t stomach it at the time, and later, opted for a little apple pie with fresh cream. I can hardly ever eat when I’m grieving, but I might try eating some in a little while.

    hopena´s last blog post..Just a quick post

  4. I didn’t meant to make that comment all about me. 🙂 Both the shepherd’s pie recipe and your true story, were both comforting.

    I don’t know why I feel the need to add this, but I will. On Tuesday night, my mother heard a song in a dream, called “The Sunny Side of the Street.” She told me about it, smiling, but it didn’t mean anything until she told my sister (over the phone) and my sister googled the lyrics. They both burst into tears when C. told her what she’d found there:

    “I used to walk in the shade with them blues on parade
    Now I’m not afraid… this rover has crossed over”

    They both took it as a message that he’s better off now.

    1. Oh that made me cry! I am so glad you got that message. They do come to us in strange ways, don’t they? Thank you so much for sharing and I am so sorry for your loss. It’s very hard.

  5. My pasta is the comfort-food not only of myself and my family, but also of family friends, neighbours and just strays. It takes hours to make (in short bursts of frenetic activity with a lot of waiting in between) but it is worth every second of it. This recipe will make enough to completely overstuff six people, or generously feed ten people, or just feed the two of us and freeze for many a future meal.

    1) Make the pasta dough. Into a plastic bowl pour a quantity of wholemeal flour (I never measure anything), and crack three large or four small eggs into it, home-grown for preference (it makes a real difference to the colour and taste). Do not add salt. Work the eggs into the flour, adding flour as necessary, until you have a dough that is wet enough not to be stiff, but dry enough not to stick to your fingers or the bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill down, and leave there for a couple of hours. If you don’t, the texture of the dough will be all wrong later on, and it won’t work well.

    At this point you have some time to yourself. You can make the dough and put it in your fridge first thing in the morning if you work, and let it chill all day, but a good two hours is a decent working-minimum. I have left it for a couple of days when my plans have changed, and it darkens and doesn’t look so great, but it tastes fine and the darkness goes away with the cooking.

    An hour or so before you want to eat, chop up one large or two small onions, between five and eight cloves of garlic, sliced is fine, and an assortment of vegetables. Last night the selection happened to include the best part of a zucchini from which I trimmed the withered bits, several home-grown mushrooms, a pile of carrot which I grated, and unfortunately no celery which I usually like to include because I couldn’t find any.

    Get a large stockpot of deep purified water (unsalted) onto the stove to boil, and a large non-stick pan with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, the green Spanish variety with better taste and vitamins than the yellow kinds. Throw the onion in even if the oil isn’t hot yet (I can’t abide wasting power) and put a cutting-board on your table and screw down the pasta machine to it. If you don’t own a pasta machine, you’re going to need that cutting board, a rolling pin, a good knife and a very steady hand. But you’ll need the knife anyway. Put your lump of chilled dough and your knife at the ready.

    Check on your onions. If they are translucent, add lots of paprika and the garlic and stir ONLY until the instant they release their aroma. You have to add the tomato paste, a big dollop of it, in NOW and coat the garlic with it NOW or it will go bitter. I cannot abide bitter garlic – most people simply don’t know how to cook it. Cook off the tomato paste, garlic and onions a little, then add a tin of chopped tinned tomatoes and the vegetables, and stir through. Have a second tin and two fresh eggs standing by. Turn down the heat.

    If your stockpot of water is close to boiling, it is time to rock and roll, or at least, to roll.

    Back to that pasta dough and machine, flour the board very well and keep the flour handy.

    Cut a chunk off the dough – experience will tell you how much, but with a three-egg mix, I find I tend to use about a quarter. Make sure the chunk is narrower than the pasta-maker’s rollers, but sufficiently wide – experience is hte best teacher again. Is the pasta machine on its number one setting? Good. Dust dough with flour very well, and feed into the machine with one hand, winding the handle with the other. Whem the machine has gripped it, use that hand to “receive” the dough and lay it out flat. If the dough is tacky to the touch (and it will be) dust both sides with flour and put it through the machine two more times. Then change teh setting to 2 and roll it again, then to 3 and roll it for the last time. do not take it any further as their recipe books will tell you! You will damage the internal structure of the dough.

    Lay out the resultant strip of dough on a floured edge of the board, and dust the top with more flour. Repeat with more chunks of flour until you have cut and rolled the lot, making sure you dust the previous piece with flour before laying down the next one so that they don’t all stick together. Don’t worry about irregular sizes and shapes – that doesn’t matter a damn.

    Check on your sauce, and add the extra tinned tomatoes. Your water boiling away vigorously? Good. So put teh handle of the pasta-maker in the “fettucini” cutter’s hole, feed the leading edge of the first piece in carefully, and turn steadily, using your free hand to “receive” the partially cut (really, just scored) fettucini. Wander over to your stockpot and tear along every second or third score to separate into strips – the rest will come apart in the water. Stir. The water will go off the boil. Cut the next sheet and return, the water should be boiling again. Separate again alone every second or third score, dropping into the water, and repeat until it is all done. Stir the water, lower the heat, let it cook for a while without boiling over.

    Do not ever dry home-made pasta! It tastes much better fresh. You might as well buy shop-bought, if you are going to ruin it anyway.

    While it cooks, check on your sauce. The veggies, are they softening? Good. Crack the two eggs on top of the sauce carefully, and slowly stir them in with a wooden spoon. Note: do not whisk or beat them before adding: I made this mistake once, and I ended up with scrambled eggs in pasta sauce. Instead, just keep working them in carefully with your wooden spoon, not worrying too much about their coagulation, until the sauce turns a tangerine or salmon colour. If you like, you can add home-made unsweetened yoghurt, and it will go a bright orange colour, I don’t mind orange pasta.

    After about ten minutes, drain off the pasta in a colander, and put back in the stockpot. Pour in the sauce and carefully fold into each together. Put on a low heat and cook until it’s done, stirring occasionally. You will have used no salt. Now, serve and dress with cut chives or other home-grown herbs and a sprinkling of grated cheese (I favour tasty, not parmesan) and eat until you cannot move. You will have used no salt, and you will really, really enjoy all the added flavours that normally you can’t taste for the salt-overdose.

  6. Well, you offered me a plateful of shepherd’s pie, I just offered you my return comfort-food. did you enjoy it?

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