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Hello, spacecraft, and welcome back to Eating the Cosmos, where our snacks are determined by the stars. Right now, we’re observing the movements of the season of Libra, the astrological sign symbolized by scales. Libra’s cosmic significance—here, levelness—is based on its scientific function: When the sun gets near this constellation, the days and nights are neatly cleaved into equal duration.
Libra, your fairness and equanimity has been familiar to the rest of us since the Sumerians invented modern astronomy via ephemerides and star catalogues and writing with cuneiform. (These ancient Babylonians were no slouches.) MUL.APIN is the Sumerian text that was later interpreted to also spell out what the stars meant in Egypt; in Greece; in today’s Western understanding of astronomy. The original guide includes, along with the names and positions of the constellations that dictate our signs, the “omens” that were understood to accompany them, or what instigated some forms of astrology. Libra’s name in the cuneiform, “MUL Zibanu,” is “balance star.”
A secret: I never really believed in astrology, and still basically don’t—save for one major factor: the agriculture of it. If I think of how each person enters the world, as it stands in certain conditions—weather, season, the availability of sun/snow/wind/certain crops; what people wear/what their habits are/how they behave as affected by these conditions, in all ways—as central to the way each person makes sense of it and so develops their personality within it, right off the bat at birth, it makes sense to me that so many kinds of astrology (Vedic, Chinese, Western, Greek/Latinate, MUL.A.PIN’s “omens”) have come to similar conclusions about our personalities, as a star-organized species.
I’m bringing up my skepticism, and my argument against it, because, together, they evince a fully Libra-ass brand of logic. Libra season, and Libras on the whole, are dialectic—meaning they interpret whatever they encounter in at least two plausible understandings. I don’t believe in this, but here is how I feel it could possibly be true is the essence of Libra, and will help you be extra-considerate this fall.
So: How do we eat balanced meals? We start by thinking of and providing whatever aid we can muster to our brothers, sisters, and siblings in Mexico, Puerto Rico and other countries impacted by Hurricane Maria, areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and Flint, which has not had clean water since 2014. If you are in a financial position to offer help, it’s time to pony up. That goes for all signs, especially now, given Libra’s deep prioritization of justice and equality. On the other side of the scale, we can balance this outward-focused approach to food with the idea that what you, yourself, eat enables the kind of thinking and going-about-the-world that makes it possible to be generous in the first place. This Libra season, let’s find methods and meals that will help us level up.
Libra, you understand that good friendship doesn’t mean blithely supporting each and every of a loved one’s decisions, just because it’s what they’ve chosen to do. You’ve always been too considerate to simply yes up your friends when you feel they might benefit from thinking through something a bit more intently. To this effect: Once, I broke up with someone I loved via text message...on his birthday because I was in a total work panic and couldn’t see the situation clearly through my deadline fugue. (I swear to god, I am not normally this boneheaded! My first draft of my very first book was due! He was being a maximum jerkball!) When I told my favorite Libra what I’d done, thinking she’d see it as the shot-put of independence and self-prioritization I initially misinterpreted it to be, she said, gently, “...Did you mean to do that?” Taken aback, I thought for a minute, then had to concede that I hadn’t. Only a Libra will be this delicate, and this candid, with you. When presented with a set plan, you know how to question it in order to improve it.
How to take that tack as you chow down this season—your season? You believe in the power of a subtle, justified switcheroo when the situation calls for it. As that applies to recipes, make informed replacements to established recipes—a mixed-berry compote inside your waffles instead of on top; soyrizo in lieu of taco meat on quesadilla night; skate-wing fillets dredged in flour and lightly fried, eaten with a red pepper aioli and capers on a nice toasted roll to draw from/expand on what you know of other fried-fish sandos. Funnily, when I asked my best Libra—the very advice-giver above—who is an excellent chef, what she might like to make this season, I’d already written this horoscope (this is a good way to fact-check them sometimes, or cheat). She sent me the recipe for M.F.K. Fisher’s tomato soup cake, plus her notes, and the whole thing is eerily in line with the ethos above:
Thanks to the way the planets will foxtrot into and out of your sign this month, you’re going to feel an increased sense that the things you want are within pinching distance. The solar eclipse in August marked the beginning of a change in your job-life, since the sun is your “career” planet, and Saturn and Jupiter are two-stepping nearby during Libra season, which will reveal more directly to you what that might look like. It’s your moment to either provide mentorship or find it within another colleague’s expertise: Having a mutually instructive allyship at work right now is going to do wonders with guiding you as you sort out your business.
If you’re not sure where to start, the answer (as usual) is with coffee. (Should I embroider that in wack all-caps on throw pillows and sell them on Etsy? Is this your humble [g]astrologer’s ticket out of here?! Let me know if you would buy one in the comments; baby needs a new birdfeeder and a sterling bracelet charm in the shape of a T-bone steak.) If there are some co-workers you’ve never really gotten the chance to spend time with, get together for a late-afternoon break out of the office, or after you’re done (drinking is also great for this). This is particularly useful if, say, they’re in accounting and you’re in creative, or you’re in sales and they look after stock. (If you work remotely or freelance, get in touch with others in your city in a similar field!) Over whatever beverage of their choice, listen to what their experiences have been—see if you can skill-share about whatever your respective contributions are. Get all manic on caffeine and be powerhouses together! Team up! Should you two start your own business?! Go find your partner, Scorpio.
Balance your impulse to streak across the planet with the understanding that you can invite the outside in, and beam yourself far and wide, without necessarily leaving the fixed point where you are bodily. The whole world can be touched by individual people in their respective enclaves and microcosms. A recent inductee to the ARS Hall of Dons, the psychic cabinet of heart-presidents whom I think of when I need examples of how to be, is Hatem El-Gamasy, an Egyptian-born political commentator and the owner of the Lotus Deli in Queens. He converted his bodega’s back room into a map-wallpapered studio, where he suits up and appears to discuss policy issues on international news shows in between serving his customers breakfast sandwiches cooked to order.
Let’s think: Because you are tasked, this season, with shredding on matters close at hand, it might be difficult to travel. How can you act intercontinentally in ways relating to food while maintaining your post in the world? Organize, for starters, a local fundraiser for Puerto Rico, Mexico, or any number of other places devastated by weather—since cash is best, have a cake walk or bake sale, or encourage local restaurants to donate gift certificates and/or specialty food packages to a raffle. When I think of Mr. El-Gamasy’s efficacious use of his home base, I know it’s possible to have a goddamn party right in your living room about it—it doesn’t need to be huge to make an impact, although, of course, the bigger, the better. You'll feel less stultified—essential to a Sagittarian’s spiritual health. Stay put, and go forth.
Around the middle of the month, you’ll find that a few elements of what makes up “normalcy” in your life have decided to shape-shift, which I know can freak you out, sea goat. Within the week of the 17th, the lunar eclipse will mark some massive change in your home or career, but you don’t have to feel destabilized by what just amounts to what some people might call a “new twist on an old classic.” Take a libertine attitude about the fixed forms you’re used to—you adapt, and adapt situations to what you need from them, very swiftly, remember?
To illustrate this at dinner: Use the classics as templates instead of mandates! What recipes can you alter, ingredients-wise, to create a similar result? I loved, recently, working from the schematic of cacio e pepe to make a penne with Morbier (seamed through the middle with ash, silky as hell when melted, and stinking to high heaven). I grated a half-pound wedge of the cheese and folded that into melted butter, in which I’d sautéed pepper carefully, over low heat, to bring out more of its flavor, then added pasta water to make it silky as well. With tongs, I added both the pasta and a head’s worth of cauliflower florets that I’d roasted with about 20 cloves of garlic, turning it all around in the pan to coat everything with the sauce. It was not for the faint of heart, which is to say, you’d probably have loved it. What can you adapt this month, in your life and on your plate? I’m convinced you’ll create all kinds of new classics, edible and otherwise, for yourself. Get going.
This Libra season, your longstanding beliefs and relationships will go through an audit that will result in your revising them, which is to say, excusing some of them from your life. This will feel hard, sometimes—like loss tends to do—but it will ultimately yield a truer and rader mode of living. You will find out a lot more about what you want your world to be, and how to behave in order to enact that.
This means: Take a close look at whether you’re eating your values. Is what you’re putting inside of yourself in key with what you want yours (and others’) lives to be? For me, recently, this has meant eating less meat and trying to eat mass-farmed meat close to never, even though my favorite food is meatloaf, my dream accessory is a charm bracelet with little silver steaks jangling around on my wrist, and I feel emotionally invested in hot dogs. I had to square up with the realities, recently, that eschewing industrial meat is just as much a human-rights issue as it is about kindness to animals (and in that respect, I have endless gratitude for factory-reform champion and animal scientist Temple Grandin for her work improving conditions for livestock).
For me, eating meat selectively is not just about personal health or moralism. On a local level, factory farms can strain or ravage a given city or state’s infrastructure, economy (especially as this affects family farmers), living conditions, and pollution levels, which is why, in September, residents of a Kansas town worked so hard to successfully lobby against plans for a local Tyson plant. Internationally, 40 percent of all methane emissions, a gas with 20 times the global-warming impact of carbon dioxide, is produced by factory farms. This leads me to think about how, especially in the wake of so many recent climate-spurred natural disasters, how people with less capital are always, always made to bear the biggest sacrifices when the weather wreaks havoc. I can learn to love a SmartDog, or whatever it’s called.
Look, that’s just an example of what I mean about aligning your beliefs and what you snack out on, Aquarius—I implore you to go ahead and do you 100 when it comes to figuring out how to eat what you actually want to. You’re not losing anything—you’re being real with what matters to you, and that’s always a boon, I find.
This will be a very social month for you, Pisces, and one of the best forms of entertaining a passel of people is to make a huge tray of enchiladas, plus a tequila-based pitcher of some kind, even if you’re only hosting a party of two. The other day, I had a deranged day with one of my best friends where we hung out in my kitchen for about six hours, yakking, hella clowning on each other, and slowwwwwly assembling our mise-en-place, then ate about two each of the 20 or so enchiladas we made. I sent him home with instructions on how to freeze and reheat the remaining 18, because I love him, and I like the idea of socializing as it exists in the form of a reminder that people can defrost and eat for weeks to come—as a lingering activity as well as actually keeping company in person.
What can you do to entertain your people, then leave an impression so they can (a) remember the sick time you had together and (b) eat a cheese-based homemade delicacy? Look, I also suggest lasagna.
Do your best to calm wayyy down this month, Aries, because you’ll find that, though money’s decent right now and you’ll feel professionally secure and productive, you’re still kind of wishing I’d tell you that your food horoscope is to BITE PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF. There are a few eclipses this month that will render you easily infuriated by just about everything—how DARE a dog bark outside your window, and who does Shiela think she IS to be proud of her child’s performance in a math tournament?????—so keep in mind that patience is paramount, and that no one is actively looking to incite or bear the brunt of your battering-ram-style ire. That dog just saw an interesting-looking bird, is all. Shiela’s kid, really and truly, did not mean to piss you off by means of long division. Try to recognize people’s innocence before convincing yourself of their guilt, if only for the sake of your own blood pressure.
Cortisol is the hormone released inside you when you’re stressed and/or running on anger-fumes, and certain foods can help abate it, like nuts and seeds, greens with dark leaves, as in spinach and kale, hella fatty fish like salmon, and complex whole grains like brown rice. Yo, that sounds like a very delectable lunch for a ticking time bomb such as yourself! Instead of biting people’s heads off, bite all up on these food-mood-enhancing drugs.
It’s becoming harvest season, aka a time you get so jazzed on that it’s basically your second birthday, and when the new moon goes down on October 5, all you’ll want is to go reap what the world’s been sowing of late. As usual, you’re inclined to head outside in order to do this, so you might like to collect flora from the botanical world to chomp on.
Have you tried making a salad that includes edible flowers? Squash blossoms are ruthlessly good this time of year, and will appeal to your naturalistic aesthetic—of course you’d love to eat a bouquet! Another, less precious but still perfect option in that dual regard, is roasting the seeds you pull from the guts of a pumpkin you picked yourself and carved, as you are wont to do, with dazzling verve. I picture you enjoying this (in Yung Martha voice) veritable cornucopia of autumnal delights while looking extremely hot in a navy-blue sweater. Also, apple cider donuts are perhaps the most beautiful fruit of the harvest of all, so make sure you cop some of those. Love is natural and real, Taurus, just like you.
This is going to be a loopy season for you, Gemini—external factors, over which you will feel little control, are going to make you feel diffuse and scattered in your goals, decisions, instincts, and broader self. That’s okay—you are diffuse in those things! As the most multifaceted sign, you want to eat the world entire rather than focus on making just one specialty dish.
I was reminded of this quality of yours recently at the candy store. Specifically, by M&Ms—they have hella new flavors in the mix, and I’ve been privately partying down by creating what I’m calling the M&Matrix, an elaborate ranking system cataloging the worthiness (or lack thereof) of varietals both old and new. There are so many ways to be the same thing, to various effect. Adoring the new caramel jams and spitting out the coffee-nut gross-outs feels, to me, like equilibrium. You are going to be many iterations of yourself this season, and not all of them will work, but some will result in great success. Within this, experiment with making or eating one of the same kind of food in as many altered forms as you can—try out four different spice rubs for the same cut of meat, experiment with different fruits by means of Marian Burros' same one recipe for plum torte, taste-test bourbons of various ages; enter the M&Matrix. Through experimentation, you’ll find what versions of what you eat (and of yourself) work best for you. Remember, too: Even when it makes you feel scattershot, your breadth is a highly cool trait to possess.
Your prospects are good this season, crabcake! As you encounter beneficial changes to your love life, you’ll also discover generative sources of creativity and capital, and since the whole love deal-o is happening with the help of other people, I want you to focus on what you’ll be building on your own, in whatever unruly-seeming circumstances that will, strangely, become a crucially helpful foundation for what you do, instead of work adversarially against it. Basically: I want you to emulate these Alaskan “cake ladies,” aka a baker who works with boxed mixes to architect beautiful, original works of art in a remote tundra without access to many kinds of food that the mainland US eats regularly. Find (shelf-)stability in the wild! You always make something wonderful out of making do, and whatever selective limitations are imposed on your diet right now, you’ll find that they enhance what you eat instead of curtailing your options.
If you have a food allergy, you’ll find a new substitution for what you can’t have that surpasses it, and even the picky kids in your life will wolf it. Maybe you will host a dinner party based on the ketogenic meals you’ve worked up, and no one will even know that they follow certain guidelines. If you’re in need of a witching-hour snack and everything is closed but the gas station, you will still sniff out a genius way to doctor up a frozen pizza that may well become a relaxed, funny staple that you come back to in high times. As one of the Alaskan subjects of the profile I linked to above, where I learned about cake ladies, said about her position: “I was like, the cake queen! Middle of nowhere, eating cake.” What a life-credo. This season, make it your own.
Jupiter is entering your house of home and family in the second week of September, lionheart, so it’s time to square up what may have been a very solitary summer (which was a good way to spend it—you got a lot done, both professionally and party-wise) with the fact that, you know, other people actually have to be around in order for you to enjoy their admiration, aka your favorite hobby. How to rein in your proclivity for self-prioritization in all areas of life and, instead, work on drawing people to you by providing attention/care/time for them? That’s easy: Make them dinner. (This isn’t wholly outside of your own self-interest, either—people tend to want to kiss, or at least compliment, the chef.)
The more effort, aesthetic care, and originality you extend to putting together whatever it is you make for others, the more in key it’ll be with your Leo-style iconoclasm and singularity. Give this some thought: What would most impress a given guest, specifically? Does your guest love steak? Make one with a cherry-balsamic reduction, cooked to her perfect specifications, and serve it with a red selected for you by the person at the wine shop after you ask them about the particular cut and flavor profile (haha, “flavor profile,” who do I think I am, Chef Guy Fieri?) of what your dinner will be. Make sure to casually-not-ostentatiously tell your guest about how the wine is supposed to work with the food. (Like I even have to give you that instruction.) Or maybe your person is really into eating seasonal produce—go to the farmer’s market, identify the least familiar vegetables you see there, and ask the people selling them the best ways to serve them. Again, broadcast all you find out about what you’re eating—what makes it (and, by extension) you so special—as you eat.
Whatever your guest’s tastes, the idea is to make something memorable, both in terms of the night they spend in your company, and the possibly new knowledge about something they very much like that they’ll take away from it. They’ll be happy to host next time.
After all the plans you got together during your mascot-season last month, decide what to chuck out as the harvest moon emerges in the first week of September. This’ll ensure you actually have room for all that you’re ushering in.
I guess what I mean is: clean out your freezer, a task that appeals to your organizational spirit while also bucking the stockpiling/provisionary senses that may have led you to make triple-batches of turkey chili, lest you fall on hard times, three months ago, only to forget all about them ever since. Use your scads of frozen vegetables, procured while on sale, to add to stir-fries, casseroles, and reduced-price-frozen-fruit smoothies. This way, you’ll have room for all the newfound eggplant parms, bottles of gin, and seasonal ice cream flavors you’ll want to have on ice throughout the transition of the seasons. If you’re not big on icing foods for the future, this same mindset applies easily to your pantry, refrigerator, or kitchen closets and drawers. If you set out to make some space for what you want to cook up next, and it’ll be way easier when you’re ready to do that. Go ahead and melt the past.