How our kitchen got its god

I never knew that my kitchen needed a God until Grace Young sent me one.

I met Grace in 2012 at a book signing event in Chapel Hill. I showed her my wok, she praised it's patina, and a friendship was born. Soon after, with her blessing, I started the Wok Wednesdays online cooking group, a group that is still going strong today. 

I had read about Kitchen Gods in Grace's book "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge" but never gave them much thought. The thinking, in Chinese tradition, is that the God occupies a place of honor near your stove. You ply him with offerings (sweets, oranges, perhaps a little booze to loosen him up) and each year, around the Chinese New Year, he will return the favor by ascending to the heavens and reporting favorably on your household.

Imagine my surprise when a package arrived from Grace one day containing a Kitchen God and incense holder. I was touched, and honored, to receive such a gift and immediately affixed my new God to his rightful spot directly above my stove.

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(Let me pause here and mention that Kitchen Gods come in a variety of forms. They can be images, they can be statues, and they can be script. The God that Grace sent me was in script form.)

I quickly fell into a routine, with weekly offerings to my God as well as small rituals wherein I would light some incense and give my God a small bow before I began cooking a particularly challenging or time-consuming recipe. My cooking improved noticeably, whether through divine intervention or practice I can't say, but I do know that by having my Kitchen God watching over me I was more careful and diligent in my preparations.

Fast-forward to a couple months ago. Jennifer Thomas, a longtime Wok Wednesdays member, had managed to find a source in Hong Kong for authentic Kitchen Gods (of the statue variety). We hosted a giveaway for Wok Wednesdays members where the winner got their very own Kitchen God, and true to her giving spirit Jennifer sent me one as well. Unboxing my second (!) Kitchen God was just as exciting as receiving my very first one from Grace.

So now our kitchen is graced by not one, but two divine overseers. Harper has easily fallen into the Kitchen God routine, and indeed is often more diligent about keeping them both sated than I am! They never stray far from our stove, and as we get ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the onset of the Year of the Dog on February 16th, we have been giving them extra special attention. After all, who wouldn't want TWO glowing reports to the heavens?

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Now here is the really exciting part - you too can purchase your own Kitchen God right from Jennifer's website, Western Chopsticks. They come in two versions, the traditional painted version like ours, or a more modern all-gold version. Jennifer ships virtually anywhere and includes handy little instructions on setting up your altar and caring for your God.


Do you have a special deity who overlooks your kitchen? Tell us your cooking rituals in the comments!