Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Welcoming the wood,
Culiblog is finally back in the house

December 22, 2007

Spice burning ritual for moving back in my home
HeeJin igniting the aromatic herbs

It was probably the lingering paint fumes that prompted Katja to suggest designing an aromatic ‘welcoming the wood’ ritual to get the good vibe back into my home. HeeJin, Katja and I adhoc’d three rituals, two of them aroma-centric involving spice-burning and copious amounts of kimchi. We also decided on a third less aromatic ritual involving generously overflowing tequila shots and representing the overflowing happiness which will take place in this new home. And studio. And kitchen studio.

Spices old and new for the moving back in ritual
Spices lit for the smoldering

Sage is commonly used to inaugurate new spaces, but I associate sage in its dried form with sinus issues and decided that a mixture of herbs would be more fitting for this occasion. I combined a masala of dried sage (for scent and smoldering) with chai mix (ground and given to me by the owner of Balraj, the Indian restaurant that was my sustanence in the 4 months of living without a kitchen), cardamom (because a day without is more difficult than a day with), sumac (because this will be the new spice in my life), bay laurel (because it reminds me of my other two Heimatts, where it grows wild), and of course the sacred herb (homegrown, and gifted from my favourite Friesian farm). HeeJin and Katja lit the herbs, and we roamed throughout the apartment blowing the wafting smoke into every corner and cabinet for good luck.

HeeJin Won makes a kimchi pancake
HeeJin shows us how to make a kimchi pancake

Now that the house smelled great, and the sacred herb doing its thing, it was time for the kimchi portion of the ritual. Hailing from the Zion of kimchi, HeeJin set to work preparing pancakes from whole wheat and rice flour, the available veg and some aged and aromatic’ kimchi that was already busy inaugurating the fridge. The pancakes reminded me of Indian pakoras and I’ve decided that they would make a good winter breakfast or snack. HeeJin said that this is Korean comfort food and I was pleased that the evening’s aroma rituals included this auspicious food and panacea.

I won’t describe the final ritual involving the tequila shots because surely everyone knows this ritual already. The past 4 months were like live/working with one arm tied behind my back and now each step of real-homemaking brings me back to myself. It was the longest night of the year but the first real feeling of a night at, no, in my HOME, with friends. Amen to that.

Kimchi pancake batter is not particularly photogenic
Not entirely photogenic, kimchi pancake batter

Golden kimchi pancake
Golden delicious, not unlike a large pakora

debra at 14:42 | | post to


  1. Wish I was there! Sounds and looks very attractive. Can you explain how to ignite these herbs? Mix gunpowder into it? Or will it just burn when lit with a match?

    Comment by Kristi — December 22, 2007 @ 23:28

  2. “Don’t try this at home, kids!”, could’ve been another title for this entry. I tried to scent my house this morning. Got my home grown sage out, and the thyme and rosemary I stole from mother nature; all beautifully dried by moi.
    I must say there’s a lot of smoke for a bit of perfume … I think I’ll better stick to the good old orange-peel-in-oven method!

    Comment by Kristi — December 23, 2007 @ 13:59

  3. That’s funny, this method worked great for me. I didn’t have the same effect, with too much smoke, you can of course control that. This method is also not for everyday scenting of the house, it’s for ‘inauguration’. It’s a little less than having the fireplace on, the way that scents the house.

    Comment by Debra van Culiblog — December 23, 2007 @ 17:34

  4. huh? “You can OF COURSE control that”???
    Well, you might have been able to. Me, myself and I however were unable to control the fumes. Unless pouring a bucket of water over the holy spices would have been a way to go, but that seemed somewhat insulting towards the ghosts and all.

    Comment by Kristi — December 23, 2007 @ 17:49

  5. Mmmmm…we eat kimchi pancakes in our local Korea-town joint here in Beijing. They are wonderful, and saliva-encouraging.

    Comment by Joanna Swan — March 1, 2011 @ 4:07

  6. Joanna, if you don’t already know how, you seem like the sort of person that would enjoy making kimchi herself. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.The best advice I can give you is to watch Maangchi’s video to find out how.
    You omit the raw oysters if you like - but however gross it might seem, they completely ‘disappear’. In my experience the kimchi is … more powerful.

    That said, I leave them out. Recently I found a bag in my freezer, from my first kimchi making session in 2007 and with the idea of giving the soil around my apple trees a boost, I left them out on the counter…. where they melted (duh) and got OYSTER JUICE all over my Claudia Roden Jewish food bible!! I had to wash the oyster smell off this book of yummy kosherness. Still smells like oyster… Other books affected in this disaster were: Good Morning Kimchi (great book!) and Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation. Nose to Tail eating had to be thrown out, pity.

    Comment by Debra — March 1, 2011 @ 9:00

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