The Smell of Garlic on Her Hands

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She grasps a bulb of garlic and, with a firm, precise gesture, detaches a clove. A rustle of delicate silk between her fingers, a knife that appears and slices into the naked clove: the scent bursts forth, powerful, invasive. The knife gets busy, chop, chop, chop, the garlic is divided into tiny cubes, everything is imbued with that strong, spicy, pungent perfume: the wooden chopping board, the tea-towel, and especially her hands.

Later, when the garlic is simmering in hot oil and giving off a warm and appetizing smell which mingles with that of the other ingredients, she continues automatically putting her hands to her nose, enjoying the fragrance, aggressive at first, then more discreet, which permeates her skin. The smell gradually loses its power as it grows in subtlety. It expresses the raw nature of that little bulb, its freshness, its honesty springing up from almost nothing. Its tenacity is not, however, appreciated by everybody.

So it is with some regret that she breathes in for the last time the familiar and reassuring scent, before taking hold of the stainless steel soap, whose smell, both sharp and non-existent, would put a brutal and definitive end to the brief blossoming.

Tomorrow, she will fry some onions.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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