Dawn Hunt wants to make your mealtimes magic.
A self-described “kitchen witch,” Hunt believes in using the power of positive energy and mindful cooking to create foods that can enhance individual well-being and personal relationships. With her new book, A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Recipes for Love & Romance, she is excited to share this knowledge with the world.
“I am ridiculously proud of this book,” Hunt says.
The book is part cookbook, part spell book, and part self-help manual, Hunt says. It combines delicious recipes, advice on meditation and visualization, and guidance on appreciating your own true beauty.
Hunt’s path to professional kitchen witchery was not a straight one. She grew up in a religious Catholic family where connecting and communing over food was always an essential tradition.
“I’m a little Italian girl from New York—food is our religion,” Hunt says. “That’s sacred, the ritual of bringing people together.”
During college, however, Hunt discovered paganism and realized that Christianity was not the right spiritual path for her. When she was 20, she happened upon a book about kitchen witchery and realized the book was describing the way she already approached cooking. Kitchen witchery was all about cooking with mindfulness and intention (and, yes, the occasional spoken meditation) as a way of sharing and reinforcing your positive energy through food.
It became an important part of her spiritual practice.
In 2008, she volunteered to give a talk about the topic at a local festival on Long Island, where she was living. The organizers offered her a free vendors table, and her husband suggested she try selling the infused olive oils she often made for use at home.
“I sold out by the end of the day,” Hunt says. “I thought, there’s something here.”
She started selling her oils at crafts fairs and festivals part-time. By 2011 she had moved to Massachusetts, settling in North Andover, and decided her side gig was worth her full-time attention.
She quit her job in interior design to launch Cucina Aurora, a gourmet food business selling products made with the same energy and intention she advocates in her book. The selection includes olive oils infused with herbs, roasted garlic, and lemon, as well as mixes for risotto and dips.
As Hunt built her business, the idea of a book was never far from her mind, but it took a fateful encounter to bring the dream to fruition. While working her booth at a trade show, Hunt began chatting with a fan of her olive oils. The woman, she learned, worked for Simon and Schuster, and was scouting for intriguing book ideas. A month later, Hunt flew to New York to meet with an editor. Shortly thereafter, she had a book deal.
“The part that made me the most grateful was they didn’t want to change me,” Hunt says. “They gave me so much creative freedom.”
Hunt cooked and styled all the food in the book herself. Photography was done by local shooter Elise Sinagra, and all the illustrations were created by Betsy Owen, a friend Hunt made during her very first kitchen witch talk back on Long Island.
The book focuses on explaining the inherent spiritual properties of a range of common ingredients—avocados, for example, are a food of inner beauty—and how to prepare them to take advantage of these qualities. Many of the recipes also include ideas for how to harness and concentrate these energies—lighting candles and saying a mantra as you prepare a pizza intended to nurture and deepen friendships, for example.
“The magic, if you will, happens in the moment of intention,” she says. “It’s not so much about casting spells, per se.”
Hunt strove to make the ingredients and the instructions accessible to readers who might be new to—or even a little skeptical of—its more magical themes. Indeed, the recipes can stand on their own; Hunt points to a cinnamon crumb poundcake and Earl grey citrus marmalade as particular favorites.
She also encourages potential readers to keep an open mind and remember that sharing emotions through food is something everyone does, regardless of spiritual belief.
“Food unites us,” she says, “and cooking with love is so important.”