When the subject of garlic comes up in conversation, I sometimes imagine vampires. Usually an image of Count Dracula from one of those vintage black and white thriller movies pops into my head. I get the urge to talk in a faux “Dracula voice”. There is plenty of folk literature about the odd belief that vampires and garlic don’t mix. This image was ramped up after the publication of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
Nowadays, writers of spooky vampire stories don’t picture their characters as having a spiritual aversion to the herb. Some vampires have a keen sense of smell and don’t like garlic because of its odor. Then again, there are some vampires who actually enjoy it. So the takeaway is if you wear a clove of garlic in order to repel evil vampires, it won’t do much good. You’ll probably just end up keeping your fellow humans away.
The idea that garlic might prevent bad things from happening goes back many years. British entertainer Paul O’Grady explained one of his folk-cures: “I make a wonderful cure-all called Four Thieves, just like my mum did. It’s cider vinegar, 36 cloves of garlic and four herbs, representing four looters of plague victims’ homes in 1665 who had their sentences reduced from burning at the stake to hanging for explaining the recipe that kept them from catching the plague.”
My friend Jorge loves garlic. One of his favorite dishes is chilaquiles. He prepares tortillas according to his mom’s vegetarian recipe, from scratch. Then he adds chopped carrots and peppers, hard boiled eggs, onions, and garlic. The dish is quite tasty.
When it comes to garlic and my personal tastes, a little bit goes a long way. In my opinion, it’s best in pasta sauces or in certain leafy salads that are garnished with fancy olives, olive oil and vinegar. My favorite way to eat it is on bread, spread with garlic butter, then browned briefly in the toaster oven.
Perhaps my taste for garlic was tempered because mom hated onions and garlic, so we rarely, if ever, ate any. The garlicky foods of my childhood were served by friends or at restaurants. My love of garlic toast was discovered by my great-aunt Betty who prepared perfect slices of it and great-uncle Ivan who grew the garlic in their back yard garden in Sunnyvale, California.
Garlic is the subject of this weekend’s culinary commemoration in Gilroy, California. If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area, drive south of San Jose to Gilroy, in the heart of garlic growing territory. This year, the community is celebrating the 40th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.
If it’s something you can eat, vendors in Gilroy will sell it to you with garlic as an ingredient. There are even flavors of ice cream made with garlic. I was squeamish about garlic ice cream at first, but now I’m a believer.
I won’t be able to attend the popular festival this year, but I plan on celebrating garlic in Nebraska anyway. Favorite dishes with garlic as an ingredient are on the menu, including garlic toast. My Gilroy Garlic Festival bobble-head doll will be the centerpiece at the table.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes country singer Carrie Underwood. “Doing the weekly shopping, I stock up on stir-fry kits–Amy’s meatless burgers, and armloads of onions and garlic. I put onions and garlic in everything.”