My Affliction, Garlic Be Thy Name

Last night, I ate some lamb chops that I cooked on the grill with some olive oil, fresh garlic, onions, and various spices. I’ve been doing a lot of grilling lately. I typically do about 90% of the cooking around our house, and that percentage has only grown since Chrystal broke her leg. I don’t mind cooking. In fact, I enjoy it quite a bit. What I hate is cleaning up. I can’t stand doing dishes. I’d rather cook dinner five nights a week than do dishes for one.

There is no creativity or creation in cleaning up. There is creativity in cooking, at least the way I do it. I typically don’t know what I am going to make until I am in the midst of cooking. I mean, I’ll have a general idea of what I’m going to make in that I know I’m going to grab a certain cut of meat from the fridge and end up pairing it with some kind of vegetable and often a carbohydrate (black beans, etc.). Beyond that, though, it’s up in the air until I am actually doing it. It could be a steak, a stir-fry, a stew, or one of countless other methods of preparation. The spices aren’t measured. Unless I’m baking (which is rare), I don’t measure ingredients. I eyeball everything, and I don’t even eyeball it that closely. I just know. It’s a Zen thing. Me cooking is less like cooking and more like painting. It’s a movement. Okay, I’m getting silly now. You get the picture.

I’m not sure when I started doing this. It probably began when I first bought a grill. Actually, the first grill I owned was an extremely frustrating ordeal. It was a charcoal grill that was just… evil. I believe that more than once, a hamburger spatula ended up being thrown across the yard in frustration, accompanied by a stream of profanity. In fact, if there was an Olympic team for grill utensil throwing, I’d have been the captain. Heck, I’d have been the Michael Phelps of the sport. I’d be on a Wheaties box. I’d be on Letterman talking about my tong-pitching prowess and my meat fork javelin skill. I’d endorse a line of grill utensils and do a TV commercial for BBQ sauce. Years later, it would all come crashing down when I tore my rotator cuff while chucking a grill brush across the yard before warming up properly. You’d catch me somewhere down the road on a “where are they now” type program and see that I had lost all my hair, grown a beer gut, and was now working at a car wash in Duluth, where I resided under the name “Lucius Biernacki” (due to an attempt to avoid the IRS). But I digress…

Normally when I cook, I crush up the fresh garlic I use with a garlic press and cook it into the food as it is grilling. I use a lot of garlic, but cooking greatly reduces its potency. It retains a little more strength when I don’t crush it with the press but cut it into thin slices. That way, some of the flavor ends up in the food, but I also end up with whole pieces of cooked garlic as well, which I happen to enjoy. Even doing it that way, a lot of the really strong garlic flavor cooks out.

So last night, in addition to cooking the food in garlic (among other things), I decided to eat a whole clove of raw garlic along with my lamb chops. I’d cut a small slice of garlic and have it with a bite of the lamb. It was strong, but quite good, actually. Here’s the thing, though (and you likely already knew this): it doesn’t go away. Ever.

I’m not so food naive that I didn’t realize that raw garlic is strong. I knew it would linger after I ate it. What I didn’t realize was just how long it would stick around and how intensely. This wasn’t just sticking around, this was kicking off its shoes and moving in. This was “Hey, I’ll be sleeping on your living room couch for the next year or so.” This was, “My name is Garlic, and I’m going to be the mayor of your mouth.” This was me turning into Garliczilla, as overwhelming garlic fumes came from my pores. If I had cried, my tears could have been used to season an entire loaf of bread, provided you had some butter to go along with it.

I ate hard candy. I drank milk. I brushed. I flossed. I used mouthwash. I rinsed and repeated. I looked up suggestions on the internet. I called the Garlic Crisis Hotline. Minutes passed. Hours passed. I swear, not only did it not go away, it intensified. Not only was I safe from vampires, I got word that the last remaining ones in my area fled the state.

When the alarm went off this morning, I sat up thinking, “What the heck is that… oh, that’s right. It’s me.”

I won’t be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon.



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