The Cook’s Tarot


The Cook’s Tarot by Judith Mackay Stirt
Review by Sheri Harshberger

Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.,
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4620-0
Retail: $39.99

What do you get when you combine the traditional meanings associated with the Waite Smith Tarot, a love of cooking, and unique artistic abilities…and then mix well? You get The Cook’s Tarot, one of the latest deck and book kits published by Schiffer Publishing. The Cook’s Tarot is the creation of Judith Mackay Stirt, the “chef” bringing together all these important “ingredients” for this Tarot recipe.

I am a huge fan of Tarot decks that bring something new to the world. Original artwork depicting personal interpretations of the traditionally recognized meanings can make powerful statements that add more depth and insight is very exciting…and just one of the things that excites me about this new deck. 


This deck provides me with a lot of things to talk about, so let’s start with the packaging. Of course, if you are getting a kit from Schiffer Publishing, you can expect a high quality box for the deck and book, and this package is no exception to that. A sturdy, black and gold box featuring Ms. Stirt’s Ace of Swords card image. The title design, also featured on the box, has a ladle with an infinity symbol in it’s cup making up the “oo” of Cook’s. I recently had a personal and important “ladle-oriented” incident in my life, so, before I even opened this box, I felt this deck was giving me a wink and secret handshake…how cool is that?


The cards are wider than the traditional Waite Smith and glossy, but not slick. They are very flexible and easy to shuffle, although I should mention that I have large hands. Someone with smaller hands may have to adapt their shuffling style to fit the cards. As Ms. Stirt stuck with the traditional meanings of the Waite Smith, it’s no surprise that her deck follows the same 78-card structure. All the cards have traditional card titles that are positioned across the bottoms of the cards in a gold band. The Majors are numbered, but the numbers are not shown on the cards. The cards are borderless and feature a green trellis-like design on the back. While the design is not reversible, it’s subtle enough that if a reader chose to read reversals with this deck, it wouldn’t be a problem.


The card images are boldly painted in what I would say is close to the expressionism style, a style that seems especially suited to Tarot cards. The colors are vivid with black lines and visible brush strokes. I can’t imagine this artwork squished down to the traditional Tarot card size, or fenced in with borders. As is the case with expressionism, the images portray emotions, thoughts, and sensations of the moments in the life of a cook they depict. 

The Fool card is a great example of this. In it, we have a woman, or girl, possibly embarking on her first cooking experience and is joyously unprepared for the task and blissfully unaware of the mess that she is making as she twirls around the kitchen. So bravely Fool-ish!

The softcover companion book includes a section on Tarot Spreads that presents 5 spreads ranging from a 1-card to a 10-card Celtic Cross and a special 8-card Maitre-D Spread. There are also sections for the Major and Minor Arcana cards. These sections include a black and white image of the card, key elements featured in the card, and a meaning for the card. The Majors section also includes the Arcanum number and Zodiac Affinity for the card. A phrase of “kitchen wisdom,” which are frequently very profound statements and/or quotes is also included for every card. For example, the Kitchen Wisdom for the King of Pentacles is “The King exists because others need him to.” Wow. 

This would be a great addition to any Tarot reader or enthusiast’s collection, and appropriate for any level of reader, although stepping away from the traditional Waite Smith may initially be uncomfortable for beginners. I’m already planning to get another deck so I can see how amazing these images are without the card titles.

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