Garlic Water

I was told by my grandfather to marry someone of my culture, “so you won’t fight during war or at the dinner table.” But do as others do and not as they say, and I am now marrying into a new culture, adding to my three. Amsterdam has over 189 nationalities in fewer than 1 million people, free to be who we are. The recipes for the Cooking Studio find me in the streets, and they build on my friends, travels, and imagination. They’ve been tested and trusted to create a variety of global recipes. 



For those learning to cook, first learn the basics. Today, garlic.


When you cut a clove in half, that little part wedged within the center, the cartilage-like strip that sometimes tinges green, must be removed. In Italian this little thing the anima, the “soul” of the garlic. Eating it causes stomach irritations.


There is, however, one way to use the anima before discarding it. Walking along the Prinsengracht a few weeks ago, I came across a woman spraying pungent water on her rose bushes. There were just the buds and thorns growing out of a root deep in the cement. I stopped to introduce myself as new to the neighborhood and asked what she was spraying. “Garlic water,” she said.



It was to fight spring pests. She had made a garlic infusion by smushing five or six cloves of garlic, and steeping them overnight in boiling hot water. She strained it into a bottle the next day and sprayed it over her leaves twice a week. I wanted to ask her if she thought it helped against bad spirits, like against vampires, but instead asked where she knew it from, and she told me she was Russian. And I wanted to ask more, but instead told her I was from Rome and she did a little dance in the air with excitement, told me about the time she’d visited, and I never found out more.


Steep the garlic’s soul in boiling hot water, extract its strength to protect the life growing in this new season.

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