One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I am very interested in the occult. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. I would have been Goth, if I was capable of taking myself more seriously (and was willing to give up wearing navy). Instead, I was a preppy and fairly cheerful kid, drawn to the dark, supernatural, and mysterious. I would read books on vampires, freemasons, and the history of witchcraft. I liked the idea of secret rituals and magical powers. As adolescents we’re all a little power hungry.

I was particularly interested in witches, or in the idea of witches. I dressed as a witch to attend a cub scout Halloween party in the 80’s (it was an unusual choice in that crowd). The witches in the Wizard of Oz both terrified and delighted me. In middle school, The Crucible had a big impact on me and the idea of witch hunts was potent enough to ignite my developing sense of injustice and feminism. I was married in Salem, Massachusetts, under a very old tree, in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who were given such grief there (you’ve come a long way, Massachusetts!). Bryan recently told me he could imagine me having powers, which satisfied (witch satisfied?).


Now it will not come as any surprise to you that I am enjoying this season of American Horror Story: Coven. I liked the first two seasons of American Horror Story, but I did not love them. I love Coven, in part because it manages to combine so many things that I love: witches, voodoo, Stevie Nicks, New Orleans, Patti Lupone as an evangelical Christian, Jessica Lange as anything, and all of this vengeance fantasy shit that is hard to resist. It is also beautiful to look at, I want to live in Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies—let’s be honest, I also want to attend school there.

All of that to say, I have been thinking about witches a little more than usual. It is easy to conjure their image in the kitchen. We stand before our cauldrons and practice our particular forms of alchemy—turning ingredients into something new, different, potent. Cooking does make you feel powerful, that is a lot of what I like about it. We’re all magical witches in the kitchen.


Witchcraft is especially evident in recipes where a few simple ingredients are transformed into something entirely new. David Tanis wrote a new book, One Good Dish, which is a collection of simple recipes. Honestly, this is often my least favorite angle for a cookbook, too often it all feels familiar, arbitrary, and doesn’t really require a recipe (avocado toast!, peanut noodles!). I was skeptical, but I trust Tanis. This soup made me a believer. It is magic, and inexpensive magic at that. Garlic and sage are thrown into some oil and allowed to cook for a couple of minutes. Water is added and fifteen minutes later you have a surprisingly delicious broth. Poach an egg in the soup and serve the whole business over a couple of slices of toast. I’ve made this multiple times in the past few weeks and I know I will be making regularly in the future. I already consider it one of my favorite things. So, pull out your cauldrons and get cooking, and watch Coven if you aren’t already.

When shall we three meet again? Probs next week when I share another recipe.


I added red pepper flakes to the garlic and sage, but otherwise followed this as written. You need to add a fair amount of salt, and buy good bread. Bread does not get better when it gets wet.

Save-Your-Life Garlic Soup (from One Good Dish by David Tanis)

  • 2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 sage leaves
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 slices crusty bread, sliced 1-inch thick, lightly toasted
  • chopped parsley, chives or scallions

Slice or roughly chop the garlic cloves (sliced is prettier, but takes longer). Warm the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and let it sizzle bit without browning, about 2 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a brisk simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle about an inch of the soup into a skillet and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Carefully crack the eggs into the pan and poach for about 3 minutes.

To serve, place a slice of toast in each soup bowl and top with a poached egg. Ladle the soup over the eggs and sprinkle with a little parsley.



30 comments to “Witchcraft”

  1. You do have magical powers! The power to delight, especially.

  2. I bet you made an awesome witch as a kid.

    I’ll have to try this soup soon. Sage is one of those herbs that I make use of like only once or twice a year, which drives me crazy because it is intent on taking over the garden when I’m not out there with a pair of scissors. I look forward to making at least a little bit of a dent in it with this soup!

  3. Great, fun post. And the soup looks awesome! Have you tried to new series Sleepy Hollow? It’s great fun. Witches. Headless horsemen. Time travel…..

  4. TIM! I knew I liked you, now I totally love you! We would so totally have been best buds in high school. I was all kinds of into Anne Rice and witches and all that jazz. Still am, actually! Just finished a wonderful book, “The Witches Daughter.” I think you’d dig it. My occult interests now tend towards green, plant-based magic, and ecological sentience, and the like. In any event, thanks for waving your witchy flag high! OH, and Stevie Nicks. You and me, kid, you and me. Btw, I’ll be up in Chicago next week, Nov. 21-24. I’m attending the Chicago Food Film Festival (as well as addressing the crowd and serving a chutney when the film about me is shown on the 23rd!). I’d love to meet up for a coffee, even if just briefly. I’ll have Glenn and Huxley with me!

  5. You’re the best. Every time you write about tv shows I feel like we could be really good friends (your post about the Killing really brought it home). And re: witchcraft, man, when the movie The Craft came out I was in 6th or 7th grade, and was OBSESSED.

  6. Love your story. And now I have another use for sage. Thanks so much. : )

  7. I have forwarded this recipe around the office and now half of Sur La Table corporate will probably be making this tonight. A soothing balm after an incredibly hectic week. Thank you!

  8. Pam- You’re sweet.
    Dena- Thanks, and yes-I am thoroughly enjoying Sleeping Hollow. That Ichabod Crane is a real dream boat.
    Ashley- Yes!
    Amber- The Craft is SO good. Or rather, I like it SO much. ; )
    Matt- I want to make it again tonight, too.

    Thanks, y’all!

  9. I love you Tim. xo

  10. What rock have I been under, did not know about the tv series. Really am looking forward to watching, also the book suggestion above. Thank you

  11. I love you for this. I was an occult nerd in HS too. (And fully goth!) Way into magic/vampires/witches/pagan/mythological anything. I hope we can hang out in real life again someday and discuss the art world and the supernatural. :)

  12. Oh my! I love the name of the recipe but more than ever, I love that perfectly cooked egg!

  13. I’m also suspicious of those few ingredient cook books because you always seem to need make about three or four dishes to actually make a meal. This is like the ultimate grandmother food if your grandmother was a witch. Poached eggs in a garlic broth poured over good bread – This could cure anything.

  14. I love AHS: Coven so much it fills me with swears. It is my can’t-miss every week, I swear. And this soup looks delicious!

  15. yes. I love everything about this post. especially you dressed up as a witch at a cub scout party. good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  16. This looks like the kind of comforting yet quick-cooking meal I’m always looking for on nights I eat alone. Usually I default to some kind of tiny pasta with butter and cheese, or some weird combo of whatever’s left in the fridge (most recently, lentils with broccoli and smoked gouda, which was actually pretty delicious). But this is better!

  17. “Bread does not get better when it gets wet”

    I love this quote so much.

  18. Oh hi there! 2-year reader, first time commenter. I am thoroughly enjoying this t.v/food commentary. Glad to know I’m not the only one completely infatuated with this season’s “Coven”. Can’t remember the last time I was this into a show.. I’m from MA so anything salem/witchy has always been intriguing to me. And let’s be real, I DEFINITELY want to be in that academy. However, witchhood is probably a burden. I’ll probably stick to magically turning a pot of milk into curds, and having the power to turn everyone in the room comatose by feeding them too many salted-caramel brownies. So…take THAT Fiona!
    That soup.will be happening for me soon.

  19. your writing makes me so happy, tim. and I can’t wait to try this soup!

  20. Wonderful, I can smell it from here! Thanks for sharing this. Do you know the two-bowl trick for peeling a whole head of garlic at once? If not, you can google ‘peel garlic two bowls’ to find out.Fun for the whole family! Many thanks again for your wonderful work.

  21. Sunday morning with poached eggs over toast in garlic broth. Pure heaven! Thank you!

    Here’s a video from Saveur showing the two-bowl garlic peeling trick. It works!!

  22. Ha! After watching 2 AHS in a row this evening how incidental to stop by your site! I’m loving the season, too.

    I think what is magic to me about kitchen work often is turning what is sitting there already, into something completely different, often without spending a dime. Like your soup here.

    Jessica Lange as anything : )

  23. I just started watching AHS: Coven & I agree, so good. I love the thought of all of us as magic witches in the kitchen!

  24. I love this; and while I didn’t know this about you, it somehow doesn’t surprise me. You need to come play in the woods in VA! S

  25. The more I read your posts the more I like it! Thanks for these special insights you give your readers!

  26. Bread does not get better when it gets wet – ha! Simple and true.

    Love this post.


  28. In the few years that we lived in the New Orleans area, I became fascinated with the Lalaurie House. Every time I walked by it, I found myself peeking in the windows like a wide-eyed 10 year old.

  29. I keep meaning to post and thank you for this recipe. It’s become a staple of my winter diet (in my freezing cold apartment). It’s perfect and works really well with homemade wholewheat soda bread.

  30. Thanks for letting us know, Triona!

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