The importance of garlic as an ingredient in good food was not entirely clear to me until several years after we had moved to live here, in France. Of course, I was well acquainted with it, cooked with it regularly and thought of it as essential to food as perfume to a woman. I had experienced wonderful dishes in good restaurants in London and Europe yet I had never really appreciated that perfume in my own cooking because I had never had access to the source. Being here I see garlic growing in the potageres around our house, I see wooden troughs of it drying in open sided sheds and I smell it wafting from the kitchens of my neighgbours. It’s gentler than I ever imagined and I love looking at it, having it my kitchen and , most of all, cooking with it. Although I have created a garlic flag in red, white and blue there is a growing part of me that is happily losing attachment to my roots, and I’m not speaking of my teeth. Neither am I looking for a another flag to wave, being as the garlic flag has similarities to the Tricolor, as I have never seen the waving of any single flag produce anything but division. It occurred to me that if each of us was allowed but one answered wish in our life then there would be very few of us left alive, as that wish would almost certainly be squandered on getting rid of the someone who was the first to truly piss us off. How often have we muttered “Oh , I wish he’d just drop dead” which muttered wish, in my predicated scenario, would render unto dust the fool who just wouldn’t move forward in the queue. Just annoyingly in the way.
On the culinary front, should the majority of my fellow countrymen have had their wishing way, garlic would be as scarce as kindness. Myth has it that vampires detest and fear the effects of garlic which suggests to me that they may not be autochthonous to Translyvania after all, and that the influx of middle Europeans to our sceptered isle may just be migrant Draculas returning to their true home.
“Foreign muck” was the popular idiom for food eaten on holiday in Europe. It was full of garlic and it was certainly best not to eat any of it if you were meeting friends later. Oddly, those same sensitive olfactory senses were oblivious to the ripeness of hot armpits under nylon shirts in the confines of the London Underground on a hot summer’s day. There is a culture gap which is not a bad gap but just a gap created by climate, location and, as it says on the tin, culture. Garlic is part of where I now live and the garlic that I now know is not the vegetable that I used to know and at last that perfume is always around my kitchen and it makes me very happy.