Washington and garlic

Today I flew from Seattle to St. Louis, because tomorrow I’m giving a talk at Washington University. Imagine that – going from one Washington to another in the same day, and neither one our nation’s capital.

My friend and host Caitlin cooked me a delicious dinner (pasta + sun dried tomatoes + garlic + olives + chickpeas + various subtle spices), and that reminded me of the very first time I tried to cook for my parents, after I was out of college and I’d gotten my own apartment and a real job.

I figured that it was an important step – showing my independence by doing something nurturing for my parents – taking care of them for a change. I assiduously followed the cookbook, got all the right ingredients, preheated things, chopped other things, and timed it all out so that my meal would be ready to serve by the time my parents arrived.

I only made one mistake.

I think it was an understandable mistake. After all, I’d never really cooked before. It’s not like I could be expected to know all of the technical terms right out of the gate.

To be more specific, it turns out that this:



is not a clove of garlic. Those of you who, like me in my tender youth, have naively thought that the above thingie is a garlic clove are in for a rude awakening. In fact, it’s something called a “bulb”. When you open up a bulb you get about ten little slices, like pieces of an orange. Each of those little slices, like the thing below to the right, is a garlic clove:



Why is this important? Well, when a recipe calls for two cloves of garlic, and your parents are coming over, and you have prepared them a dinner into which you have actually incorporated two entire bulbs of garlic (around twenty cloves, by my reckoning), things are likely to go amiss.

Fortunately my friend Burke happened to come by some time before the arrival of my unsuspecting parents. Unlike me, Burke actually knows a thing or two about cooking. He had me sautée and sautée relentlessly, which didn’t exactly rescue the meal, but considerably reduced its near-lethal strength.

Needless to say, the entire apartment – and probably all who ate there that evening – reeked of garlic for the next week. My mom and dad were very gracious about it, and they gave an excellent impression of enjoying the meal. It’s amazing what some parents will do out of love for their children.

But there may be a silver lining to this episode: You have probably heard that vampires hate garlic. And I can say definitively that from that day to this, I have never – not even once – been attacked by a vampire. I suspect that my good fortune in this area has been entirely due to the lingering effects of that meal.

5 Responses to “Washington and garlic”

  1. Dagmar says:

    I knew it anyway computer graphics people can’t handle units properly. :-)

  2. Zabador says:

    LOL .. this is such a common mistake, even for French people who put garlic everywhere 😉 I hate garlic by the way, so it’s true for sure that is keeps vampires away 😉 (but I’m the nice kind 😉 lol)

  3. Peter says:

    First time baking bread, the recipe I followed called for two lbs of butter. The ‘l’ in pounds wasn’t crossed as was intended so two tbs increased by a factor of 32. The resulting brick was, of course, inedible.

  4. Mike says:

    Garlic really does keep the vampires away, and that is mosquito’s, and other vermin. Take a head (bulb or so) of garlic, strip it down, run through a food processor with a few teaspoons of water to get all the garlic water from it. Now strain the juice into a small bowl through terry type cloth. When you have three table spoons, let me know……….

    You add 1-3 table spoons to each gallon of your sprayer, so a 2 gallon sprayer needs 2-6 table spoons. Fill it up with water & shake. Spray anywhere the vampires have gathered, usually around your back patio or any bright light. The smell leaves in a few days, but the vampire smells thousands of times better than you, and he will be repelled for a month from any area you spray.

    If you have standing water, add a few tablespoons of cooking oil to each gallon and spray the water. Gutters with leaves & old tires are two favorite spots to spawn and rise from the dead, so wish you luck, and add this to your wooden stakes and silver bullets. :)

  5. admin says:

    Thanks Mike for that very good and practical advice.

    I think we are all a little safer from vampires now. :-)

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