Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Queen Bully of Garlic

In an old FoodVibe post Steve asked: Is it worth trying to juice garlic?

I'll answer this question, unequivocally: NO.

I juiced garlic, once. At the time I was twenty-two, bursting with bravado, and inspired by the heady writing of one of my early heroes, the juicing extraordinaire, Dr. Norman Walker. (Warning: Do not follow that link lightly...) In his famous Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices this is what Dr. Walker has to say about garlic juice:

"Metaphorically speaking, garlic itself is bad enough but garlic juice by itself may cause devastating social ostracism for the one who drinks it. It is very beneficial, if one has the mental fortitude to overcome social handicaps, and the intestinal fortitude to endure the general discomfort which accompanies the more or less rapid house cleaning of one's system."

Around this time I smuggled fresh garlic into restaurants. I cut the cloves raw onto my food. (Suzanne will attest to this fact.)

I had the mental fortitude. Unfortunately, I did not have the intestinal fortitude. One cup of garlic juice and I was walloped. I drank the garlic juice, mercifully mixed with carrots, on a Friday morning in July. I was due to go to the beach for the weekend. I never made it. I spent the weekend in bed, immersed in one of the most intense and ridiculous detox experiences of my life. I smelled like garlic until September.

Garlic is intense. At the very least, it inspires intense emotion. I for one love it. Before I became humbled by life and love, I used it in my own cooking like a battle axe. Don't like garlic? Too bad, here's my Risotto with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

Suzanne and I once made Risotto with 40 Cloves of garlic. It was a balmy summer night. We shared the risotto and three magnums of red wine with my brother. Then we went bowling. That sweaty night, as the garlic and wine seeped from our pores, as our friends moaned and complained about the obnoxious smell, we winked at each other and laughed conspiratorially.

No amount of social ostracism could overcome the deep and loving pact we forged over massive amounts of red wine and garlic.

I'm a Garlic Bully. I throw my garlic love in people's faces. Rarely have I met my match. I suppose though when you're a bully you always get your comeuppance.

Once, in Barcelona, I met The Queen Bully of Garlic.

When I lived in Barcelona I made a habit of visiting the fruit and vegetable markets every day. Most days I was so enthralled by the shapes, colors, and smells of the fruits and vegetables that I literally wasted up to an hour, simply browsing the aisles. On one of these occasions I was awakened from my spell by a short fat women whose cheeks were plump and red, and who offered me a clove of garlic speared on the end of a small pocket knife.

Queries?” she asked.

Then, as if preparing for a sudden burst of song, she proclaimed in rapid fire Spanish that her garlic was the most powerful in Barcelona. As she spoke she waddled back and forth with sincere pride, inhaling deeply, throwing her hands in the air as if to prove that the garlic was responsible for her robust posture. Seeing my doubt, she implored me to bite into the clove and taste for myself.

I accepted the challenge with my bravado, throwing the entire clove into my mouth. I chewed the garlic as if it were an apple, but before my second bite I realized that I was experiencing the real deal: the garlic to end all garlic, a perfect, peppery slice of the beautiful, ugly, power of The Stinking Rose.

I continued chewing with a twisted face, as if it were a matter of pride, like taking a shot of whiskey. The taste, however, was too strong. I spit the clove onto the sidewalk in defeat. The small crowd that had gathered burst into laughter. The fat women smiled. She was chewing on one of the cloves for pleasure.

For the rest of that day and onto the next, wherever I went the smell of garlic followed. Garlic seeped out of my pores like a renegade sweat, like a battle scar.

Moroccan Charmoula Tempeh

This is a close adaptation of the great Peter Berley's recipe from the outstanding book The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen--my all-time favorite vegetarian cookbook. Four garlic cloves make this dish garlicky; six make you a "garlic bully." Serve with rice.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water (yes water)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh ground cumin (Please tell me you grind your own spices?)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground chile powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 pound tempeh, cut into one inch squares

In a blender or food processor or blender, mix together olive oil, water, lemon juice, spices, salt, garlic, and cilantro.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange tempeh squares in a single layer in a baking dish. Pour on marinade and cover securely with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until tempeh has absorbed the marinade. Uncover and bake for a few more minutes to brown.

Serves 4


Steve said...

I love when you write stories that involve magical strangers who entice you to do bizzare things. It seems to be a theme of yours

As if these people are ghosts who appear in your path for the sole mission of tempting you with exotic fruits, and then dissapear into the ether once you turn your back.

If it were me, I wouldn't have eaten it. No F'in way.

Karen said...

We also had two Australian friends in Barcelona, Peter and Amon, who drank some funky, pungent garlic water to ward off colds!

If they felt the sniffles coming on, they would peel a whole head of garlic, cut each clove in half and throw them all in a small jug of water. After letting the garlic infuse the water overnight, they would carry a bottle of the stuff around with them wherever they went!

Seth said...

Garlic water saved me several mornings from absolutely devestating hangovers--hangovers brought on, by the way, by hanging out with Peter and Amon until the wee hours of the morning, drinking disastrous amounts of alcohol.

Stephanie said...

I traveled through Mexico back in 1989 for two months with two garlic-eating hippies (they would peel whole cloves and eat one a day). They swore it kept the "turista" away. It kept everyone away. It was unbearable. They exuded garlic from every layer of their sweaty, unwashed beings. So instead of gringos crapping all over these people's country, they stunk it up - BAD. Needless to say, I still have a hard time with raw garlic today. I just think people should smell nice. That's all I'm saying.

Seth said...

Hi Stephanie,

To me, part of the allure of garlic is the stink. I hardly ever eat massive amounts of garlic anymore (this blog was originally written a few years ago), but when I do I revel in the smell of my skin--I feel food-based, mythological, monstrous.

Steve said...

There's nothing like that food-based, mythological, monstrous feeling. I felt that way this morning at 5:30 when I juiced my breakfast: green chard, cucumber, celery, carrot. It sure beats feeling synthetic, fictional, and meek.

I've been juicing garlic with wild abandon lately. I can handle the smell but the taste is the worst.

This summer, on the advice from a friend, I tried "popping" garlic, which is to dip a medium sized clove into olive oil, and swallow it whole.

It was a gastro-intestinal nightmare. I spent a few days near doubled-over in pain.

The flatulence was mythic and monstrous.

I'll be back though.

That was just a test run.

Bert said...

When I met Amanda, I stopped eating garlic for the first several weeks, until I knew I had her in my grasp. That's how much I love Amanda.

scott said...

i love the sting of raw garlic in your mouth, how you can feel your saliva welling up to push it out of the mucous membranes. i don't eat raw garlic too often out of consideration for others, but i do every time i get sick.

a few cloves of garlic, washed down by a glass of lemon juice, large amounts of cayenne pepper, and honey. that will blast out any cold.