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Love garlic? You’ll love this! February 4, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. If you’re a fan of the “stinking rose,” you’ll love this quote, which I found in a book I’m currently reading called The Last Days of Haute Cuisine: America’s Culinary Revolution (Patric Kuh, Viking, 2001).

The book chronicles the rise and fall of elitist establishments like New York’s Le Pavillon, where the food was French, the chef was French, the menu was in French, and if you weren’t upper-crusty enough, you were seated in the back, even if you owned the restaurant. It goes on to discuss the rise of new styles of cuisine, from The Four Seasons to Chez Panisse, and American food celebrities like Julia Child and James Beard. It’s an extremely educational look behind the scenes for those of us who weren’t there to experience Prohibition and the cooking trends of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s in person.

I was reading along thinking “Hmmm, this is interesting,” when I stumbled on this absolutely marvelous quote about garlic and the timidity of the Western (in this case, British) palate by Elizabeth David in a book called Summer Cooking. I have no idea who Elizabeth David is or was, but talk about a zinger! Garlic fans, rejoice, and keep this quote in mind for the next occasion on which someone launches into an anti-garlic tirade:

“The grotesque prudishness and archness with which garlic is treated in this country has led to the superstition that rubbing the bowl with it before putting the salad in gives sufficient flavour. It rather depends whether you’re going to eat the bowl or the salad.”

Bravo! I still come upon instructions to rub the salad bowl with a cut clove of fresh garlic all the time. This may give a faint aroma of garlic as you dish up the salad, but it certainly won’t flavor the salad. It would be like rubbing the plate on which garlic knots are served with a cut garlic clove rather than mincing the garlic into the oil that’s served as a dipping sauce for the knots.

Admittedly, I like my garlic cooked, though I certainly don’t shy away from it in any form (or quantity). I can’t resist fresh-baked garlic knots. And the best Caesar salad I’ve ever eaten is served by my friend Dolores, who minces more than a few garlic cloves into her dressing. Yum!

If this “grotesque prudery” is caused by a fear of garlic breath, for pity’s sake. A clean mouth before dining and a cup of mint tea afterwards (or chewing some fresh mint leaves) should take care of that! So should a little fresh-squeezed lemonade. But the best remedy of all is a healthy diet (and thus good digestion) and good dental hygiene (which of course includes brushing your gums and tongue).

So take care of your health and enjoy your garlic! And, please, try not to eat the salad bowl.

‘Til next time,



Stiiiiiink bugs. October 12, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Faithful readers know of my unending battles with my mortal enemy, stink bugs, here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. They manage to insinuate themselves into our house, then lurk unobtrusively until my attention is on something else. Then, RRRRRrrrrrBOOM!!!, they dive-bomb onto me or a nearby surface, scaring the hell out of me and providing yet another test of my cardiac fitness. Just yesterday, I saw three stink bugs waiting their chance near the front door. Grrrrrr. I hate stink bugs.

Today, however, I was thinking about garlic, not stink bugs, while writing a post for our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac. Our local paper had mentioned a Dracula Dip Contest at a nearby garlic festival and it captured my attention. Dracula Dip! Priceless! (For recipes, search this blog for “Dracula dip.”)

Admittedly, to many people, garlic stinks. Stink bugs apparently stink if you squash them, hence the name. But I was still not prepared to go to our WordPress “dashboard stats” page and see that someone had come on our blog looking for “garlic stink bugs.” Eeeeeewwwww!!!! Let’s hope they weren’t planning to try them with the Dracula Dip.

         ‘Til next time,


Dracula dip. October 12, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Recycling the local newspaper, I came on a notice for the Dracula Dip Contest at the Easton, PA Garlic Festival on October 3rd. Now, how could anyone resist that, especially a bigtime Christopher Lee fan like yours truly?

Rats, we’d missed the festival, and sadly, the paper supplied no recipes. And while admittedly reluctant to go on a website with the motto “Eat, Drink, & Stink,” I just had to see if the winning recipe was listed. After all, what could be more appropriate for our Hallowe’en festivities than Dracula Dip?! Well, the official website had a great photo of Bela Lugosi as the Count, but no recipes. I was forced to turn to my old friend Google to see what “Dracula Dip” turned up. Here are a couple of promising dips that you vampire fans (or those trying to ward off vampire attacks) can try:

          Anti Dracula Garlic Cheese Dip

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup real mayonnaise, as in Hellman’s

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon parsley, minced

7-8 big, fat fresh garlic cloves, minced, or more to taste

3 tablespoons fresh green onions (scallions), chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and chill for at least an hour or overnight to give the flavors time to intensify. Serve with veggies, crackers, bread, or your favorite. [Note from Silence: From www.grouprecipes.com.]

         Dracula’s Garlic Dip

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup real mayonnaise, as in Hellman’s

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons dill weed

1/4 rap. each celery seed, paprika, and parsley

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. [Note from Silence: This recipe is from Cooks.com. I have no idea what a “rap.” is.]

         Hypnotizing Squash Dip

This one’s from Canadian Living.com. I (Silence) like it because it’s creative and combines all the flavors of the harvest season, but mercy, it’s a lot of work for a dip. See what you think! As they say, “Keep Dracula at bay with this mesmerizing garlic-packed dip. Surround it with crispy ‘bat wings’ (blue corn tortilla chips).” Makes 3 cups.

1 small butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

5 cloves garlic (unpeeled)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Pinch ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon basil pesto  

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or grease; set aside. Cut squash in half lengthwise; scrape out seeds and membranes. Brush cut sides and garlic with olive oil. Arrange squash, cut sides down, and garlic on prepared pan. Bake in 350-degree F. oven until tender, 45-55 minutes. Let cool slightly. Scrape squash pulp into a food processor; squeeze garlic pulp over the top, discarding skins. Add Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of the sour cream, and the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Spoon into a shallow serving bowl, smoothing the top. If making ahead, you can cover and refrigerate this for up to 2 days. When ready to serve: In a small bowl, blend remaining sour cream with pesto. Using a small piping bag fitted with a plain tip and starting at the center, pipe into a spiral on the dip. (You can use a small resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off if you don’t have a piping bag.)

Well, it’s a shame that the recipes of the official Dracula Dip Contest winner and runners-up weren’t listed. The three dips I’ve listed are all interesting, but the last one’s way too complicated for my taste and I can’t help but think I could improve on the first two. So here’s my attempt at Dracula Dip. You’ll note that mine includes shredded cheese because vampires are inherently cheesy, and hot sauce because, let’s face it, a good vampire is always hot!

            Dracula Dip (Silence Movie Version)

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2-2/3 cup sour cream

4-6 large cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 cup shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese

3 green onions (scallions), chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste (we like RealSalt, or try Trocamare)

generous splash hot sauce (we like Pickapeppa or Tabasco Chipotle)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for intrigue)

1/4 cup canned pure pumpkin puree (not pie pumpkin), optional

Stir or beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, stirring in more if needed to reach your preferred dipping consistency. Stir in remaining ingredients (except pumpkin puree), mixing well to blend. The cheese, garlic, and green onions will give the dip body; it’s not supposed to be smooth (unlike Dracula). But it will definitely have a bite! Using a teaspoon, swirl in the pumpkin puree, if desired. Do not blend, let the orange of the pumpkin contrast with the pale yellow/green of the dip. Allow to rest for an hour before serving to give the flavors time to marry.

Serve with tortilla chips, pepper strips, carrot rounds, endive leaves, celery sticks, soft pretzels, breadsticks, Triscuits, or (especially fitting) the bat-shaped crackers I’ve seen recently in my grocery as a Hallowe’en special. Or  make the dip in a mini-Crock Pot, heat it on low, and use it as a fondue-type dip for Pizza Hut-style soft bread sticks. But if you order the bread sticks (and possibly accompanying pizza) delivered, watch your delivery person carefully for any signs of a cape, an unusual pallor, or fangs.

Do you have a favorite “Dracula Dip”? If so, please share!

         ‘Til next time,


Beating garlic breath. August 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Ugh, garlic breath, that bane of polite society. If you love hummus, baba ghannouj, aioli, garlic knots, or any other garlic-rich treat, you’ve probably come up against garlic breath many times, not to mention the reaction of your horrified friends, family and colleagues.

I was reminded of this recently when our neighbor Fran, in response to my passing along a container of my Carrot Cabbage Confetti Slaw, reciprocated with a tray of hot-from-the-oven beer bread and garlic dip. The dip was made from half mayo and half sour cream (Fran used low-fat for both) impregnated with about a dozen minced garlic cloves and a good spoonful of garlic salt to boot. Whew! It was super-tasty, but our friend Ben and I were left with terminal garlic breath after we’d enjoyed it.

What to do? I’ve tried eating parsley, chewing mints, brushing my teeth, eating plain yogurt, eating bread, eating rice. No dice. Garlic must be one of the most persistent scents on earth, second only to skunk. It’s enough to make a self-respecting person give up garlic altogether for the greater good of society.

But today I made a discovery. Our dog Shiloh was socializing with Fran and Bill’s dog Ollie when Fran emerged from the house with a carton of the luscious garlic dip. “Here, take this, I’ve made way too much,” she said. Well, yum, was I really going to say no to that? Not to mention that the only thing I’d eaten all day was some virtuous cottage cheese and tomato and, frankly, I was feeling a little hungry. But sadly, I didn’t have any dipping bread in the house. So I grabbed what I did have, plain tortilla chips, and ate a couple with the dipping sauce, then ate a couple more plain to wash them down.

Whoa… wait a minute… there’s no garlic breath! That can’t be, can it? I know there’s no lingering garlic taste, but I still must have killer breath after that teaspoon or two of garlic-saturated dip. So I put my hand in front of my mouth and blow into it to drive the breath up to my nose. Still not a single whiff of garlic. Could tortilla chips really, finally be the answer? The Garlic-Breath Terminator? Try it, and tell me what you (and your family) think. 

         ‘Til next time,


Great bulbs of fire! August 31, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
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It’s garlic harvest time here in Pennsylvania, and fresh garlic is everywhere. Each week, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have been receiving a head of organic garlic from our CSA (that’s consumer-supported agriculture, aka subscription truck farming; see our post “Hip, hip hooray for the CSA!” for more on this great way to sign up for the freshest, best, most interesting veggies—and often fruits and more—in town). A farm down our road has a big, handwritten “GARLIC FOR SALE” sign at the head of their drive. Garlic is (mercifully, not literally) in the air.

So of course, our friend Ben and Silence jumped at the chance to head up to the Poconos to attend the Pocono Garlic Festival yesterday. The festival is held at Shawnee Mountain Ski Resort near East Stroudsburg and Marshall’s Creek the last weekend of August (continuing today, for anyone close enough to attend), from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Once you find the general area, there are signs to help you on your way to the actual festival site.

Our friend Ben and Silence had not been to a garlic festival, so our only frame of reference was the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival (coming up next weekend, September 5th and 6th, in the tiny crossroads of Bowers, PA). We were (no surprise to those who know our friend Ben) arriving towards the end of the day, around 4, so we were pleased to see that the extensive parking area was still full. We were less pleased to be docked $10 each for the privilege of attending, more than a movie ticket in these parts, but then again, we hoped this would prove to be more entertaining than a movie, and it was supporting local farmers, so why not?

After paying up and being banded like a couple of colorful Amazon parrots (our friend Ben was attired in a tomato-red Hawai’ian shirt to complement Silence’s tomato-red top and flowing Indian paisley skirt), we were off like a herd of turtles. That’s because the bridge to the festival passes over a large, lovely lake with hardy native waterlilies as well as clamoring Canada geese, mallards, and turtles, which were being fed by a sizable crowd. Silence loves turtles, and somehow managed to part the crowd, park herself at the rail, and lean out over the water’s surface, oohing and ahhing as each turtle swam to the surface from the nearest mass of water lilies. Deaf to our friend Ben’s entreaties, she only recovered her hearing when the Canada geese, who clearly didn’t appreciate having to compete for treats, had apparently driven the turtles off.

Moving on, we were simultaneously assaulted by a riot of heavenly smells from a seemingly endless assortment of food and an assortment of live music, with people performing everything from Billy Joel (oh, no, not that) to country dance tunes (we noticed quite a few dancers in the crowd who’d edged up to that particular stage and were rocking out). Not that we don’t love music, but between Billy Joel and country dance classics, we felt the food was definitely the winner for our attention.

Booths offered an incredible assortment of food, from popcorn and pulled pork to, I quote, turkey on a stick, to baba ghannouj and hummus, to baklava and garlic ice cream. (Garlic ice cream?!!) No, we did not try any of this, much as we (especially) love baba ghannouj, the smoky Middle Eastern eggplant pate, since we’d had a huge lunch seemingly minutes before. Our friend Ben fears that Silence mortally offended at least one vendor by actually running away when she was offered a plastic cup of homemade garlic vinegar to drink. We limited our purchases to another Lebanese booth, where Silence, after some not-too-subtle hinting by our friend Ben, acquired a square of homemade halwah (a sesame candy, aka halvah, that’s not to everyone’s taste—in fact, most of our friend Ben’s friends hate halwah—but if it does happen to appeal to you, you can’t resist it) and some apricot paste for future curries and chutneys.

This particular booth also featured a large assortment of jewelry, including eyeball-themed jewelry that’s traditionally worn or carried throughout the Middle East and Greece to ward off the evil eye, and coin-encrusted scarves and the like, apparently intended for aspiring belly dancers. Silence bypassed these but couldn’t resist an eyeball keychain (mind you, these aren’t real representations of eyeballs, like glass eyes, but instead are blue beads with black central dots, stylized representations of blue eyes with pupils). Our friend Ben can only say, too bad they weren’t selling lottery-winning eyes.

Of course, there were plenty of other crafts, including garlic-themed jewelry, ceramics, and hand-carved boxes. Our friend Ben dragged Silence away from some lovely ceramic garlic keepers, and she pointed out to a mesmerized Ben that the handmade chess set I was drooling over was too much of an extravagance, given that we already had several sets and were, after all, just beginners. But we did see some wonderful crafts, including whimsical jewelry and hand-knitted footwear and mittens from one couple’s own alpacas.

The real highlight for us, though (besides smelling all that heavenly food), was the garlic itself. Lifetime organic gardeners ourselves, we were thrilled to see how many farmers proudly announced that their many varieties of garlic were organically grown. Beautiful garlic braids competed with abundant bins of fat bulbs and highly practical mesh “stockings” of bulbs, with a knot after each bulb so the cook could cut off a bulb without unleashing the whole thing. One patriotic farmer was selling these garlic stockings in your choice of red, white, or blue mesh. Our friend Ben and Silence enjoyed seeing all the types of garlic that were available, from ‘German Red’ and ‘German White’ to ‘Georgian Crystal’, ‘Siciliano’, ‘Inchelium Red’, ‘Asian Tempest’, ‘Russian Redstreak’, ‘Purple Cauldron’, ‘Creole Red’, ‘Persian Star’, ‘Music’, and many, many more, including, of course, the giant ‘Elephant’ garlic.

We also encountered numerous purveyors of garlic-themed culinary products, from garlic-infused oils and vinegars to a honey farmer who not only sold the most gorgeous honey we’ve ever seen, but had some special garlic and hot garlic honey on offer. (We could see it on baked, roasted, or barbecued chicken.) Even the handmade soap booth was offering garlic soap, doubtless essential if you live in vampire country. (We’ll pass, thanks.)

Too bad no one was offering a garlic-themed blindfold to help get Silence off the bridge and away from the turtles on the way out…