Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It All Began with a Clove of Garlic

One day, shortly after Shawn and I got married, I stumbled upon a recipe for something (and for the life of me I cannot remember what) that I wanted to cook, but one of the ingredients was two garlic cloves. Keep in mind, I was 21 years old, and the extent of cooking for myself up until this point was ripping open a Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treat for breakfast before walking out of my dorm for American Lit.

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.


  1. Funny story! I've "cooked" since I was about 12 when I'd have to cook Hamburger Helper for my family for dinner. I didn't truly get really excited about cooking and trying new things until I started watching the Food Network. Both my husband and I LOVE the Food Network! We've learned a lot of cooking things just watching those shows, like what a roux is and why you would use it. I don't think that I had ever heard of a roux until a few years ago. Have you ever visited the blog "Annie's Eats?" It is great! The girl who writes it is about our age and has a really interesting story. She has some super recipes on there. The link is http://annies-eats.com. You should check it out if you haven't already.

  2. Thanks, Emily, I will definitely check her out. How'd you find out about Annie's Eats?
    I, too, am a food network lover but since Shawn and I gave up t.v. for the year, I haven't gotten to watch any for a while so you'll have to fill me in on any great recipes I may have missed in the past 6 months. So good to hear from you!!!!

  3. Mai-I'm so excited you are blogging! The garlic story is so funny and sounds like a story I would tell.
    I'd love to see a recipe using parsnips. About 3 weeks ago I bought some to try to cook and puree for Finley and of course, they are still sitting in the crisper in my fridge! But I read that they make good baby food so I thought I would pick them up.

    Anyway, love the blog and recipes and we can't wait to see you in August!!

  4. loved this post! i really enjoy the way you write!! can't wait for more!!!

    as for my cooking journey....it began when i met and fell in love with a vegan!!!!!

  5. Laura, I will be on the lookout for some parsnip recipes to share. I've only ever used them in roasts and such, like you would use a carrot. Let me do some investigating...
    Janelle, what a cooking journey you're on! I'd love to hear about some of your favorite vegan dishes since that's a totally foreign territory for me!

  6. Hey Maile, I love your blogging debut! It kind of feels like we're sitting down and chatting over coffee. (that would be lovely, by the way!!) I'm so curious about how you find meals that please the various taste buds in your little crew. Elise has always been a good sport and eaten everything we eat (though she's gaining independence and stronger opinions as an almost 3 year old, so this is quickly fading) and Caleb simply won't eat anything (unless it's a yogurt covered raisin - or some other treat that belongs in the dessert category!) So...do tell what magical ways (if any) you find to make one meal for the crew and not FIVE separate offerings. :) becca