Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Stinking Rose

Back in 1995 I was visiting Los Angeles and went with my friend Kirk to a restaurant called "The Stinking Rose." As you can guess, the featured ingredient on the menu was garlic, served every which way. I ordered a sandwich called "40-Clove Chicken" and it lived up to the hype. It was tasty, but so garlicky I couldn't finish it. After the meal, we went to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to watch a wonderful production of Porgy and Bess. About three hours later, with mist still in my eyes from the finale, "Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way," I returned with Kirk to his car and the tears welled up again. But this time it wasn't due to Gershwin's music. It was that leftover half a sandwich in the back seat! The car smelled like it was filled to bursting with toxic gas. Sorry, Kirk.

Garlic is supposed to be very healthful, but it does have this one drawback. There's no such thing as anti-oxidant breath, or anti-bacterial breath, or anti-viral breath, but there sure is garlic breath. So how can we get the flavor and health benefits without the stench?

I recently came across an interview with noted raw food guru, David Wolfe. I generally approach his advice with skepticism, but he comes up with some gems now and then. In the interview, Wolfe said that by chopping up cloves of garlic and soaking them in something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice, the smell will be greatly reduced. He suggested that heat/cooking damages the medicinal properties of garlic (what he calls the "immune system chemicals"), but this soaking does not. I have tested his theory and it really works.

So now when I make hummus, for example, I chop and soak a couple of cloves of garlic overnight in the juice of half a lemon, which is also part of the recipe anyway. The result is a hummus that is nicely garlicky but not stinky. Praise de Lawd!


Susan said...

Thanks for the tip, Jeff. Maybe I can get the chef at ZuZu in Cambridge (MA) to read this.

A friend and I shared a ZuZu PuPu Platter -- which is Middle Eastern, not Chinese -- before going to a concert. Our favorite item was the whipped garlic, which the waitress said was just garlic and olive oil. It was fabulous, and since we were both eating it, we didn't have to worry about offending one another.

On the way to the concert, though, I realized what a fire-breathing dragon must feel like. I was acutely aware of every raging exhalation.

While I was sad for the performers (the Boston Modern Orchestra Project) that the seats around ours were empty, I was grateful that my friend and I didn't ruin anyone else's concert experience with our fumes.

By the way, the most startling, beautiful musical sound I've heard was at a different BMOP concert, in which principal percussionist Bob Schulz (my old neighbor) arranged and soloed in Tan Dun's "Water Concerto." As one of many water-based instruments that Bob had to invent based on the composer's vague instructions, three percussionists allowed droplets to fall from their fingers into bowls of water. I don't know how they managed to make this audible, much less musical, but it was amazing. While I know this wasn't the whipped-garlic concert, the two memories are indelibly linked in my mind.

Jeffrey Stock said...

Thanks for the reminiscences! The ZuZu PuPu sounds tasty...

Leanboy2000 said...

Pickled garlic can now be found in many "high end" olive bars. I find the garlic solids to make me quite gassy.