The Cat Buddha - a ubiquitous novelty shop trinket, transcendental art object, and the inspiration for my favorite cerebral snack.
I love gummi bears, maybe too much, and I tend to get an upset stomach when I over-indulge. Perhaps it's the sweetness or artificial flavors. That's where the fennel comes in. Not only is it great tasting, fennel has many health benefits, acting as a digestive aid and antacid. Fennel also carries a mythological significance. It is with a fennel rod that Prometheus transports fire from heaven to earth, signifying a giant leap in the advancement of civilization. Or, more poetically put:
He bestowed the benefit of fire upon men by means of the Fennel-rod, 'which has shown itself a teacher of every art to mortals, and a great resource.'*
Fennel: a vessel for positive transformation! In a roundabout way, this brings me back to the Cat Buddha with its pensive all-knowing gaze. As an everyday object, it is a token of our time. As a totem of meditation, it is a vessel for self-awareness and betterment. Whether coming from a tradition inside or outside the realm of spirituality, self-betterment and positive transformation seem like worthwhile goals - both for individuals and the civilization we know.
In this spirit, I offer a tribute to Prometheus: My recipe for the Fennel Gummi Cat Buddha, a gelastic symbol of our progression as a civilization!
Step 1: Ingredients & Tools
This recipe will make 1 standard Fennel Gummi Cat Buddha, measuring 4" at base diameter and 5" in height. If the Cat Buddha is not your thing, create your own custom mold! Try and use a food grade silicone such as FGS-2237, manufactured and sold by Douglas & Sturgess. If you don't have access to mold making supplies, one simple and easy route is to use a baking sheet. Also, if you can't get your hands on fennel extract (also known as fennel tincture), try making your own. I'll put a few links to food grade silicones, as well as tincture and mold-making instructables, in Step 5.
- Fennel - 1 bulb
- Fennel Seed - 1/2 tsp
- Fennel Extract - 60-120 drops
- Knox Gelatine (unflavored) - 12 envelopes (measures out to 8 tbsp)
- Confectioners Sugar - 3 tbsp
- Water - 5 cups
- Food Coloring
- Fennel Tea
- Small to mid-size sauce pan
- 1 Quart measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Cat Buddha Mold (substitute your own mold or 11x17 baking sheet)
Step 2: Mixing the Ingredients
I've listed the following in order of operation. The steps are pretty well timed and there shouldn't be a need to rush! None of the steps are very high stakes and the recipe is really forgiving.
1. Chop your fennel bulb into 1/2" pieces. Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pan. Add the chopped fennel to the sauce pan, cover and boil for 10 minutes. This will add some mild natural color and sweetness. If you like, substitute a couple tea bags for the fennel bulb. This will give you a dark, rich and flavorful gummi.
2. Empty your fennel seeds into 2 cups of cold water - they will become little flavor blasts in the finished gummi. I use my 1 quart measuring cup for this step. Sprinkle in the gelatine evenly and slowly while stirring with a spatula to avoid dry clumps. Once the mixture has the consistency of thick applesauce, cover and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
3. Reduce your boiling fennel water to low heat. Spoon out and discard the boiled fennel. Keep 1 cup of the boiled fennel water in the sauce pan. It should have a faint green coloration. Add your confectioners sugar and dissolve on low heat, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.
4. Scoop the gelatine and fennel seed mixture into the sauce pan. The mixture will have thickened somewhat and may tend to slide out in a solid chunk - watch out for splash back! Continue to stir over low heat for 5 minutes as the gelatine dissolves. Once dissolved, scrape the sides and bottom of the sauce pan with your spatula and make sure everything is stirred together. Turn off and let sit for 2 minutes.
Step 3: Pouring the Gummi
Now, you have a small window of time to make some magic happen!
1. Slowly pour your gelatine mixture into your mold or baking sheet.
2. Using your finger or a spoon, remove any bubbles from the surface. Let the mold sit for 2 minutes.
3. Add 60-120 drops of fennel extract, to your taste. A thin layer of gelatine may have solidified on the surface. If so, remove it with your finger or a spoon before adding the extract.
- As a recommended option, add drops of food coloring intermittently with the fennel extract. I suggest no more than 5 drops. The extract is alcohol-based and will create psychedelic motions with the water-based food coloring!
4. Refrigerate your mold for 4 hours, less if using a baking sheet.
5. De-mold (carefully), or make cut outs from your baking sheet.
The flower, the lightning flash of fire that is the origin of all arts and knowledge, [Prometheus] stole and gave to mortals...the spring that is the teacher, revealing every art to mortals.**
Step 4: About the Ingredients
I've lived up and down coastal California and it's not often that I go for a hike without seeing and smelling fennel. As a native plant of the Mediterranean, it thrives in this dry climate. Though not from the same plant, fennel shares a similar flavor profile with anise, star-anise and licorice. At the same time, it seems to fall behind in order of popular preference. With so much in abundance, there's plenty of incentive to put it to use.
Aside from the prevalence and health benefits, fennel has a fascinating historical and abstract character. The word itself contains references to Christian institution and Greek mythology in a unique nexus of spirituality. In Classical Greek language, the word fennel translates as narthex:
A word that also came to designate the vestibule of a Christian basilica, as the gateway to the sacred space beyond...As a means for accessing the mystic passage through the Door, nothing could be more appropriate than the sacramental plant.**
It's a word that brings intrigue and a plant that brings refreshment. Not without significance, it speaks to the origins of creative incentive. While fennel left Prometheus bound, it leaves me inspired!
Step 5: Links & Credits
There are many excellent instructables for silicone casting and mold making projects, and every application is different. If you are looking for help making food grade molds, or a good introduction to casting in general, I recommend this instructable. Check out the following links for more information on food grade casting products:
- *The Canon: An Exposition of the Pagan Mystery Perpetuated in the Cabala as the Rule of All the Arts, William Stirling. Elkin Matthews, London 1897, p118.
- **Sacred Mushroom of the Goddess and the Secrets and Eleusis, Carl A. P. Ruck. Ronin Publishing, Oakland 2006, p86.