Garlic: a love story

Once upon a time, I was 23 years old. I was about to begin a Master’s degree at an excellent university, but at a university located in the town in which I’d grown up. A town which hadn’t acted upon my psyche to make me extremely adventurous or open-minded or charming. This is important to this story in this specific way: I’d grown up with people, and was then friends with people, who weren’t adventurous with food. People who, in fact, objected to food being adulterated with fancy ingredients or detectable amounts of flavour or fresh produce. I didn’t usually find eating to be a very enjoyable experience, but the eating I did enjoy fit into the above flavourless criteria and was always shockingly unhealthy. I generally ate only to feed the machine.

The first week of this MA program, two things happened: I knew I should have run away to Montreal after all, and I met the man who would become my husband. (Obviously, the second negated the first; but this wasn’t immediately clear to me.) He was a Come-From-Away. He flirted with me within about 5 seconds of our meeting. I lied to myself and insisted I wasn’t interested. He had a strange Come-From-Away sort of name I couldn’t figure out (Norwegian, it turns out), and he ignored my attempts to ignore him. I thought, what the hell–I’ll be gone the moment this degree’s done; may as well have some fun while I count down to my final escape.

Well. He decided to woo me with food, not having any idea just what a novice, what a terrible little baby, I was at it. He said he’d make me dinner and so we went to the grocery store, where he instructed me to “Get the garlic.” I roamed aimlessly up and down the aisles, through every part of the store and couldn’t find it. No, I did not ask for help because as I wandered that cool, well-stocked labyrinth of canned goods I realized this: I had absolutely no idea to what category of food garlic belonged, no idea what it looked like, and therefore where it might be. But I’d heard apparently normal people refer to it, so I knew it would be a shaming the likes of which I could never recover from if I had to ask someone where it was. I kept walking.

But then, of course, I had to admit all these things when Future Husband asked me, when he found me 10 minutes later looking entirely hopeless, why I hadn’t yet procured the garlic. Even he will probably admit that to say he looked at me askance doesn’t quite describe the look of scorn he gave me.

He made me dinner, we had fun together. We started dating, or something like it, and dove into grad school. Food was a big part of his life but I still thought eating at the McDonald’s was acceptable, and so he became crafty and strategic and took me to his mother’s place in PEI for the weekend–she’s an amazing cook. We’d known each other only a month, I think. It was a bold and dangerous move. I was a bit of a brat and may have refused to eat some salmon because it wasn’t in the fish stick form to which I was then accustomed.

But I recall having my first ever cup of actually tasty coffee. And there must have been some other food I was willing to try and found to be revelatory, for by the conclusion of our MA year, we enjoyed cooking every night, I’d gained at least 10 lbs, and I was excited to run away to South Korea, where garlic is central to their culture’s origin story and cuisine.

My husband introduced me to many delicious foods and the pleasure of being culinarily open-minded. But it all began with the garlic, and I will be forever grateful. The best way to express this gratitude, I feel, is to share some of my most favourite garlicky recipes with you. Warning: These are all guaranteed to deflect approaching vampires, viruses, Buddhists, and potential life partners afflicted with an insane aversion to this most savoury nectar.

Also, note: I almost always add more garlic than recipes call for. E.g., for one batch of mashed potatoes, I will add no fewer than three heads of roasted garlic. (Speaking of which, isn’t it just so great when you’re eating garlic mashed potatoes and you get a whole unmashed clove of garlic? It`s like a blast of garlic butter unadulterated by butter!)

Spicy Creamy Tomato Soup, How It All Vegan!, Kramer and Barnard, p. 59

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried dill
1/2-1 tsp pepper or cayenne
1 tbsp olive oil
4 fresh tomatoes diced + 1/4 cup water
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp sweetener (I use agave nectar)
1/2 cup of soft or silken tofu or soy milk
2 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (garnish)

Directions

Saute onion (minced), garlic (crushed), salt , dill & pepper on medium heat until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, stock and sweetener. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. In a blender or food processor, blend tofu and 1½ cups of broth until smooth. Add to soup pot and stir in freshly diced tomatoes.

You’ll never eat canned tomato soup again. Or, if you do, you won’t be able to make eye contact with yourself the next time you come near a mirror.

A pasta recipe from the same book! I might not pair these, especially for dinner parties.

Fragrant Garlic Parsley Pasta, How It All Vegan!, Kramer and Barnard, p. 112

Ingredients

1 lb cooked pasta
24 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup flax oil
2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
Chopped good quality olives to taste, NOT optional

Directions

While pasta is cooking, in a small saucepan, saute the garlic, pepper flakes, and salt in oil on medium-low heat until garlic is tender. Set aside. Drain pasta and toss with flax oil, parsley, and the garlic mixture. Garnish with olives and serve.

No, I absolutely do not mean 2-4 cloves of garlic. I mean TWENTY-FOUR CLOVES OF GARLIC per pound of pasta. Damn, so good. But this will give even a seasoned garlic veteran like me a little tummy-ache, so definitely don’t skimp on the parsley and follow up with some nice chamomile tea. And don’t go visiting for at least two days.

And here’s the world’s best and easiest marinara sauce, just to round things out.

From Veganomicon, Moskowitz and Romero, p. 205-206

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt + pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium-low.  Add the garlic and cook about a minute.  Don’t let it burn. Add the rest, cover, bring to simmer over medium heat, then turn it down to low and simmer 15 minutes.

And there you are. You’re all set up for your Garlic Week festivities! But don’t thank me; thank my husband for taking me to the grocery store in early September, 1998. Two love affairs for the ages started that day and the world’s been a better place ever since.

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19 thoughts on “Garlic: a love story

  1. Will try the garlic pasta! I remember when said husband’s idea of dinner was having one potato smothered with butter. And, I remember when said gourmet cook Mother thought that peanut butter and mustard sandwiches were delicacies. Oh, they have come a long way since then!

  2. I love this post! Such a sweet story. I remember wanting to use garlic in recipes as a kid but my mom refused (she also refuses to use onions). So as soon as I moved out I bought some garlic and started putting it into EVERYTHING. I’m a little more conservative with it now.

  3. I love garlic so much and your story made me laugh. I did not grow up in an adventurous food house in spite of its location being in southern California. I had garlic as a kid but it was never fresh garlic. When my mom made spaghetti she would make garlic toast and she used this garlic spread that came in a jar. When I met my husband and he started doing all the cooking I finally had fresh garlic and it was like I have gone to heaven. My husband will make me really garlicky hummus for the weekends and he tells me he knows when I’ve eaten it because when he comes home from work the entire house smells. And then there is our favorite pizza place where we will sometimes add roasted garlic to our pizza if we will not be seeing people afterwards. They put whole cloves of it on and they put on a lot. It is sooooo good.

    • I’ve been known to put mucho amounts of garlic on pizza myself; it really is pretty much the best thing ever. Do you think there’s such a thing as garlic cheese? And if so, when will someone make us a vegan garlic cheeze?

      • I have never heard of garlic cheese but a vegan version sounds like it would be ever so delicious! There is a new cookbook out called vegan artisanal cheese or something like that. I’ll have to borrow it from the library and get my kitchen wizard of a husband to do some experimenting 🙂

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