Garlic cures everything, including cabin fever. But this is not the only reason I love garlic. I love its lore, its effect on our health, its flavor. It can be sweet (roasted or baked) it can be incredibly piquant (raw). In most cases, garlic is not subtle, which may top my reasons for this love affair.
I just heard a great interview on NPR’s Fresh Air that made me yearn for garlic and spicy food. The interview was “Grant Achatz the chef who lost his sense of taste“. The interviewee, Grant Achatz, is one of those avant-garde, rockstar chefs who has a famous restaurant in Chicago (Alinea) where entrees start at $250 a plate. He lost his sense of taste during his bout with tongue cancer (how incredibly poignant, like Beethoven losing his hearing or William Turner losing his eyesight). His sense of taste did return, but he is still not able to eat spicy food. No jalapenos, no extra garlic – what a heart breaker!
The doctors wanted to replace Achatz’s tongue with muscle from another part of his body, which would have killed his sense of taste forever. He did not let them do it. Go, Grant! He has written a new book called “Life on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat”. It sounds like an amazing foodie book.
Another great foodie book is Julia Child’s biography “Appetite for Life” by Noel Riley Fitch. Julia Child broke the gender barrier in the French gourmet kitchen. When she attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris, she was the only woman in her class. Her book The French Chef was the beginning of a cooking revolution in which Americans started to explore the culinary delights of other cultures. Her biography gives us insights into the inspiring adventure-seeker she truly was. She really loved life.
Here is a little garlic gem from “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” quoted on www.globalgourmet.com (please read this aloud in her voice, as I did):
Purée Raw Garlic Cloves: You very frequently need garlic that is in an absolute purée—in salad dressings, in garlic mayonnaise, and so forth. The garlic press will do the job, but a garlic press, at least among certain of the food cognoscenti, is absolutely a no-no-non-object used only by non-people and non-cooks. Thus it behooves us all to know of and to be able to execute this perfect hand technique, which actually is fast and easy when you have several cloves of garlic that need the treatment.
Place a large clove of garlic on your work surface, lay the flat of your big knife upon it, and smash it with your fists. The peel is then easy to pick off and discard. Repeat with several other cloves, if needed. Then start mincing the garlic with your knife, and puréeing it by rubbing the flat of your knife back and forth over it. Sprinkle on a big pinch of salt, which will release the garlic juices, and in a very few minutes of vigorous mincing and rubbing you will have a perfectly smooth professional purée.
My last two recommendations celebrate Italian food (just as Italian food celebrates garlic): “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes and “East, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Considered “Chick Books” by some, these books treat Italian food with a certain wonderful warmth and reverence. And as spring comes late to Vermont and March is when cabin fever can reach a fevered pitch, a couple nice, warm foodie books might just get you through this most devilish of months.