a diary entry about witches, cooking, and farts. photo of the witch rosemary pasta taken by judge.
by judge russell
May 03 2020
I woke up suddenly. The shrill iPhone "Stars" alarm sound filled the space inbetween the four thin walls of my room with total dread. I got conscious enough to miss my old alarm clock. (I had picked it up from a Goodwill somehwere in New England. The backlight barely worked so you could only tell what time it was when I was getting up for work, and "DREAM MACHINE" was written in small, but bold lettering on the side.) After that though, my left calf started to cramp intensely. I muttered a verbal reaction to the horrible pain. I thought about the way I get these in bed with other people, and how they don't know what I'm talking about, and I feel like the man on the plane in that Twilight Zone episode who sees the monster on the wing. The pain went away when it wanted to, and I noticed the terrible smell of my bedroom. Despite the window being wide open all night, whatever demon occupied my stomach the previous day hadn't left yet and my terrible date-canceling gas had not ceased.
I've been trying to figure out what I ate that did this to me although nothing sticks out as strange. I've eaten mostly bread or pasta with various vegetables every day for the past 48 hours which has been normal for the 2 months I've stayed here in Spain. The pasta was the only thing with an unusual ingredient-- not something gut-destroying-- but perhaps otherworldly. While cooking the pasta, (the simple olive oil, garlic, white beans, and lemon juice recipe my father taught me. This is my only culinary connection to him, as I don't have the diet nor the budget to share his love for steak and kolbasz, and it's very simple, so I make it a lot. He was fairly drunk when he showed me this recipe. He turned the burner up to stir-frying levels, burnt the garlic, rejected the smell and my concern, added the beans, and decided to start over when the sauce was a dark sludge. We tried again and it was fantastic.) I put in the normal pasta herbs, thyme, oregano, parsley, and thought about the witch rosemary I had on my shelf in the cupboard. I threw its leaves into the food, and the stem into the trash. I added spinach, cheese, and lots of cayenne this time. I have improved the recipe. It wasn't long after this when my stomach went from feeling a little weird to awful.
You may have already googled what witch rosemary is, which would prove either you or I a fool. You, because I'm about to explain it on this page, or me, because I'm using a copywrited herb name and my brand new website is going to be taken down by the feds before we can even sell it to Conde Nast. I received (or was forced to buy) this rosemary from two old women at Playa de las Arenas. I was writing in my notebook waiting for my friend Pia to show up when suddenly two old women with a small shopping cart stood in front of me. They were of a short stature, dressed in dark clothes, and had tough, sad, wrinkled faces. They were begging for money from tourists at the beach. I recognize my position, so when they asked I forked over the only cash I had in my wallet, about a euro and a half. The foremost lady looks at me and says
"This is it?"
and I say,
"Yeah. That's all I have."
she looks back towards her friend and her friend gives me a branch of some herb. I ask her
"What is this?"
and she replies
and then the two hobble away.
From the moment they had turned their back I had decided that they were most definitely witches of an old Spanish variety, and as I threw the stem in my bag to grab a beer with Pia I had already started thinking about what I would cook with the witch rosemary. For my life was a little bit without magic then, and that branch of rosemary was most definitely either cursed or blessed.
So I used it in the pasta, and I spent the next day in the various bathrooms of the Universitat Politècnica de València being torn apart by stomach demons. Just a half an hour ago getting out of bed felt pointless and impossible. Now that my head is a little clearer and I remember how many stories there are in the world I'm ready to take my coffee. Today I will buy a candle, and my room will smell better.
(looking up "witch rosemary" in spanish and english on the internet, I found what some worldwide witches think about the plant. one says "Ayuda en enfermedades como Chron, colitis, colón irritable, gastroenteritis, diarrea y estreñimiento." I guess my problem is something different.)
february 2020, valencia, spain