Labor of Love

The making of Torshi Seer, a.k.a. Persian-style pickled garlic.

They say that there is no love, only signs of love. This is a manifestation of that very thing.

I made it for a friend I’ve been estranged from for their birthday. I bought ingredients before we stopped talking, and they were sitting there on my counter. Other people told me I shouldn’t bother: “Throw it out!” “It’s not worth the effort.”

Part of the vinegar came from a previous batch this friend’s sister made for them, years ago. He gave it to me, because he said it was delicious to use with all the flavor of the garlic infused into it, and it sat on my shelf for a long time, because I felt guilty using it. He talks about her visit and her Torshi Seer fondly, and even more so when he goes to eat the last pieces out of the jar.

I hesitated on what to do with all the garlic, barberries and vinegar sitting around my house. If I make it for him anyway, while I’m angry about other things, does that make me weak? Will he even understand its meaning and why I made it?

It felt wrong, though, to use it for myself, or throw it away, when I could heft the weight of that little jar of balsamic and feel it pregnant with significance. Two years fermenting and the pieces of his heart suspended in it like little cloves of garlic.

It felt right, though, to add my own love to the jar holding the vestiges of his sister’s, and make it a double-love birthday.

The labor is in prepping each bulb of garlic, but mostly, if not wholly, made with love.

You can find lots of recipes for this online, but once the garlic is cleaned of its tougher skin, I boiled the heads of garlic in balsamic vinegar, leftover vinegar from the previous batch of his sister’s Torshi Seer (for richer flavor), honey and barberries.

After the mixture boiled for a few minutes and cooled, I put it in a jar and let it set for about eight weeks. Leave it longer for an even better taste!

This is what love looks like. It’s not grandiose or glamorous. It’s just a lot of good feelings compressed down through our labor into these little mundane forms to make them digestible to the object of our affections.

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