Literature Musings Recipe Soup

Guest Post: “Toil and Trouble” – A Fateful Stew Recipe

Greetings, faithful readers of Love, Food & Beer, and welcome! Brian has been gracious enough to allow me to write a guest post on his blog and share it with all of you!

Please allow me to introduce myself: my name is Violet, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance… assuming, of course, that you’re not a Scottish lord, or a sailor’s wife.

Really? No recognition? Does this picture help?

Cooking up some fun!
Cooking up some fun with the fam!

Because of William Shakespeare – you know, that misogynist hack who allegedly penned some ungodly number of plays and sonnets – I’ve been immortalized as the Second Witch in The “Tragedy” of Macbeth, or as he referred to us, I’m one of “The Weird Sisters”.


First of all: Macbeth? Not a tragedy. Any play where a controlling, self-centered, immoral, a-hole dies at the end seems to me like it should be billed as celebratory, not tragic. Maybe shove it in with the Rom-Com’s. Granted my sisters and I set off that powder keg (that whole “Fate vs. Free Will” thing), but let’s face it… they all deserved it.

That actually brings me to my second point: just because you see three women hanging out together, making stew, and causing general, secondhand mayhem, DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE SISTERS. I mean, what the hell, Bill? Do you just assume that all people standing in a general vicinity are related? Every time you walk into a bar, do you take a step back and go “Oh most boundless public-house, how art thou so pregnant with numerous kinsmen?”

They’re just friends, moron.

And finally: I’m not THAT weird, am I? Sure, Janet (the third “sister”) isn’t the MOST normal (I never thought that “liver of a blaspheming Jew” was a necessary addition to our stew), and we all know that Agnes (#1) likes supernaturally messing with sailors and their wives, but does that make us weird?

OK – now that I’m rereading this… yes, it sounds weird. But isn’t weirdness a state of mind?

Don’t answer that.

Since you’ve allowed me to finally get all of that off my chest, I’d like to share our famous recipe for “Toil and Trouble.” While the recipe itself has been immortalized in IV:i (that’s act 4, scene 1, dummies) of Macbeth, for some strange reason ol’ Billy Shakes forfeited the nuances and raw natural beauty of our time-tested recipe in favor of his form-fitting rhyming trochaic tetrameter.


Let’s set the record straight, beginning with the notion that this recipe is actually somewhat more forgiving than the transcript of the incantation implies. Of course, you’ll still want to be careful to follow the directions; you wouldn’t want a NON-murderous Scottish lord running around. As a general warning, this may get a little weird (like my “sisters” and I, apparently) but it should be a good point of reference for the daring home cook, or just a witch on the go!

Note: You'll have this much fun when you tackle this recipe!
Note: You’ll have this much fun when you tackle this recipe!

We’ll begin with my (annotated) list of ingredients:

  • 1 brindled (striped, for the layperson) cat
  • 1 hedge-pig (hog)
  • 1 Harpier (can be difficult to find)
    • Keep these ALIVE! These first three “ingredients” are needed for their noises only 
  • 4 cups of poisoned entrails – can be whole or chopped (your choice)
    • You can poison your own, but pre-poisoned works perfectly fine
  • 1 Toad that has sweltered venom for 31 day under a cold stone (or rock) – whole or chopped
  • 1 fenny snake (any old swamp snake will do) – filleted
  • 1 eye of newt
  • 1 toe of frog
  • 1 wool of bat – balled (it’s easier to toss into the cauldron)
    • If you can get wool on it’s own, that’s great, otherwise remove it from the skin yourself
  • 1 tongue of dog – whole
    • MUST be from a poodle
  • 1 adder’s fork (tongue) – whole
  • 1 stinger (tongue) of a blind-worm – whole
    • I know, it feels like overkill on the lizard tongues, just bear with me
  • 1 lizard’s leg
  • 1 howlet’s (small owl’s) wing
    • Can actually be a baby owl or just a small older owl – doesn’t really matter as it’s only for texture
  • 1 scale of a dragon
    • You’ll obviously want to add more, but don’t, you’ll regret it… and not in a fun way
  • 1 wolf tooth
  • 1 pound of mummified Witch
    • Like the poisoned entrails, you CAN make your own, but I recommend buying 
  • 1 maw and gulf of ravined salt-sea shark – cleaned, but left whole
    • Basically the mouth and throat. You can include the stomach, but not the contents, that’s disgusting
  • 1 root (between 1-2 cups) of hemlock – dug in the dark, bark removed, grated fine
  • 1 liver of a blaspheming Jew – minced
    • Thanks Janet, you realize this makes us look antisemitic, right?
  • Either 1 gallbladder of a goat, or 1 pint of goat gall (bile) – your call on that one
  • 3 slips of yew – slivered during the moon’s eclipse
    • Yes, it connotes sadness, but we are trying to brew up toil and trouble, after all
  • 1 nose of a Turkish man or woman
  • 1 pair of lips of a Tartar
    • Fun fact: there are around 6 million Tatars living in and around the Volga Region!
  • 1 finger from a baby strangled at or just after birth and left in a ditch by a whore
    • Yeah, this one’s dark. Let’s blame Janet again for the last three ingredients. 
  • 1 complete set of tiger entrails – diced
    • This is a thickening agent – fresh will work, but I find dried tends to soak up the excess moisture more effectively
  • 2 gallons of baboon’s blood – for cooling purposes
  • 2 cups of blood of a sow that has eaten her nine farrow
    • It’s easier than you think to find a sow that’s eaten her nine piglets
  • The liquefied fat of a hanged murderer – you only need, like, 2 tablespoons
    • It takes about a week or so for a body in the sun to sweat it’s own fat out – just be patient
  • A cauldron – half full of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley (or cilantro if that’s more your style) – for garnish

OK – I know the list LOOKS daunting, and – if I’m being honest – pretty disgusting, but I know for a fact you can find most of this stuff at WholeFoods. Just ask the attendant, he’ll be happy to fetch you some tiger’s entrails out of the back room.

Granted, it's complicated, but you can get more animated than this when you're making your own!
Granted, it’s complicated, but you can get more animated than this when you’re making your own!

Oh, and PLEASE make sure to gather, clean and prep all of the ingredients ahead of time. You don’t want to hit a wall, and overcook the goat bile while you’re waiting for an eclipse so you can sliver off some yew. I mean, that’s just embarrassing.

And now for our step-by-step directions:

First, light a fire, if for no other reason than to keep warm. I say this because as tempting as it may be to go about willy-nilly cooking up some “Toil and Trouble”, you have to have a target, and the recipe need to be well-timed. As you know, we famously used this delicious concoction on King Macbeth, and we had ample warning that he would be seeking our assistance (after all, he took our whole “you’ll totally be king of Scotland” advice to heart almost immediately).

Once the ingredients are cleaned and prepared, place your half-full cauldron atop your fire. I know you’ll want to dive right in, but you need to wait for the brindled cat to mew three time, the hedge-pig to whine four times, and the Harpier to yell “‘Tis time, ’tis time!” As a warning, some Harpier’s like to yell “Wind chime, wind chime!” Which SOUNDS similar if you’re not listening closely. Just pay attention: you’ll get there.

Once the cat, hedgehog and harpy have sounded the proverbial alarm, you usually have between 1-2 hours to get all the way up to the baboon’s blood, so you’ll be happy that your water is already coming to a boil.

Oh – side note: It’s not absolutely necessary to be chanting and dancing around like our characters are in the play. Sure, you can do it if you like (and it’s a decent way to remember the recipe if you forget to print it out) but really it’s a simple Shakespearean device used to set our lines apart from those of the other characters in an attempt to emphasize our role in the story and make our lines memorable to the dummies milling about in the audience. I mean, I STILL have “double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble” stuck in my head… and I saw the play at a special *ahem* invitation-only showing in 1612. No big deal.

Once it reaches that nice rolling boil (you can salt it if you like) add the poisoned entrails, the toad and the fenny snake fillet and allow them to cook down for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll smell that wonderfully acrid stench as the poison (from the entrails AND the frog) begin to effervesce. It’s magical. Seriously.

The next seven ingredients (eye, toe, wool, tongue, fork, sting, leg) can really go in at any time during the next ten minutes or so of cooking, but all MUST be thoroughly combined in the cauldron before the howlet’s wing is added. You’ll see why. Hint: take a step back; it starts flapping.

After that, everything up to the tiger entrails (scale, tooth, mummified flesh, shark guts, root, liver, gall, yew, nose, lips, and baby finger)  can go into the pot at basically any time.

I know what you’re thinking: “but won’t that be really watery?” Yes, adventurous home cook, it will be. It’ll look like a depressing low-viscosity bile with random things floating in it, and that is appealing to NO ONE.

But I’ll let you in on our little secret. Two words: Immersion Blender. That’s right, if you have one of these wonderful little machines, go ahead and blend it all together. It won’t affect the flavor OR the supernatural outcome, I promise.

If you don’t have an immersion blender – ummm, go buy one, like, NOW! – you can let everything cook down on it’s own before adding the tiger entrails. It’s fine, it will just take a while.

Add the tiger guts SLOWLY, one chunk at a time, stirring constantly. This part’s a little tedious, but TOTALLY WORTH IT when you finally see how thick and slab it makes the gruel.

Let it cook for another few minutes after everything is incorporated, and then cool it the baboon’s blood. As we all know, aside from being an effective ingredient for cooling magical stew, blood of baboon is also a wonderful, albeit powerful, thickening agent. Add it slowly and carefully, until the whole mixture can be deemed firm and good.

At this point you have to wait for the target of your charm to not only show up, but also to beg of you speak. Be sure not to talk first, it’s just not how this stuff works. The timing here is variable, and there’s no hedge-pig to give you a “heads-up” as to when to begin, so be patient. Bring a book.

Once they start begging and groveling, add the activation ingredients in quick succession. The sow blood obviously goes in first, followed rapidly by the sweated fat of a hanged murderer. Stir if you choose, but the desired effect will be achieved either way. As a friendly warning, apparitions may appear at this point, or anytime hereafter.

Congratulations, you’ve doubled your target’s toil and trouble! You can now sit back and enjoy the ensuing chaos!

Keep in mind that I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my original witchcraft recipes, but please let me know if you make any substitutions or find any satisfying work-arounds; I’m always open to fresh new ways to influence fate!

PS – Brian asked me to include a beer pairing. I know you think I’d lean towards a Scotch Ale, but I would actually recommend something full-flavored but sessionable, like Stone Go-To IPA. That way you can observe the downfall of – say – a Scottish lord, without losing your focus or having to take a nap before their ultimate downfall at the hand of their subordinates.



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