Of course, I’d heard of garlic before, but it was always garlic powder or dried minced garlic. And, should this story be taking place right now, I would have just hopped onto the internet, looked it up, and gotten my answer. But this was ten years ago, when the internet was strictly dial-up, and mostly used for email. So with much trepidation, I headed to my local Food Lion in search of this mysterious “garlic clove”.
I entered through the sliding glass doors of the store and immediately the small produce section of the store welcomed me. Thankfully, Food Lion’s tend to be rather straight-forward in their produce offerings or this search could have been a very, very long process, because I literally had to read the signs for every product I did not immediately recognize: radish, parsnip, fennel, shallot…garlic.
There it sat: a white, lumpy ball, covered in papery skin, reminiscent of an onion, and rather unimpressive. So this was a clove of garlic…or was it? I picked it up and stared at it. The recipe had said “2 garlic cloves”. I suppose womanly intuition told me that two of these lopsided bulbs seemed like a lot to go into the dish I wanted to make. So I headed in search of help, which came in the form of a middle-aged cashier, staring at me through thick glasses and bushy brown hair.
“Hi," I said, rather sheepishly. "I was just wondering. Do you know if this whole thing is a garlic clove?” She stared at me without blinking. I wondered if she even heard me. Slowly, her gaze shifted to the garlic in my hand and then she began shaking her head from side to side. In a thick southern drawl she replied, “I have no idea.” There we stood, two semi-competent women, staring wide-eyed and confused at a small lumpy nugget nestled in my palm.
I bought the garlic, went home, and somehow deduced that what I needed for my recipe was indeed just two of the small pods that could be pulled apart from the garlic head. And the wonderful flavor that came from those two little culinary diamonds astounded me and launched me into a whole new realm of cooking.
Why am I sharing this story? Because I’ve come a long way since that Food Lion in Florida, but I still have a lot to learn. So let’s learn together. No question is off limits here. If there is something you don’t understand, please ask and don’t be embarrassed—we all have to start somewhere, and I started with a garlic clove. Where did you begin?
And tomorrow, I bring you a tribute recipe of an old Southern favorite that finally won me over.