The morning is early, but you can feel the edge of the sunshine turning hot. A quick shift in the breeze between cool dampness and dusty heat. As I tromp out of one garden patch, moving the sprinkler to another bed, the scent of garlic perfumes the air. This is not the “aroma” of stale garlic from a cheap pizza joint, but fresh garlic growing inches from where I drag the hose and try to not stumble into the plants in my early morning haze. In the interests of full disclosure it’s not really that early, but my level of functionality in the morning is… how to say this politely… slow. Yet every morning as I move the sprinkler from that particular garden bed I catch the scent of garlic and think of it longingly. I miss garlic. I love garlic. It’s early, I don’t plan on eating garlic right now, but it’s the true scent of the plant that makes me smile. Every morning the scent of that garlic makes me think of food, which makes me laugh at the thought of a heavy garlic breakfast (not an impossibility in my household before the FODMAP… joy). Then that thought always takes me to Turkey.
I have no idea when I’ll get to return to Turkey or in what capacity, but the country and the people are lovely and I miss them both. But in the mornings when I smell the garlic plants I reminds me of a less pleasant smell… at least at 4am… that of pancakes. Don’t tell my son that I wrote this, but at 4am on a dig site the last thing in the world I want to smell is cooking food, particularly pancakes. For my first excavation in Turkey we had a dig chef who is arguably the best (and most fought over… literally) dig chef in the country. Necmi is amazing. Out of his love and caring for us, Necmi would prepare for us special food to start our day. Pancakes. The smell of those pancakes at o’dark hundred hour made me nauseous, but out of love for Necmi we would all try to choke one or two down. Then around 8:30am-ish, after we’d been working at the excavation site for a few hours, we would stop work for second breakfast (the life of an archaeologist in the field does have some parallels to how hobbits eat) we would wish we had his pancakes.
But back to the garlic. This is one of those crops that I’d never actually seen in “the wild” before moving to Vancouver Island. I had a good working knowledge of what the plant looked like, having cooked with garlic bulbs all of my adult life, but that doesn’t prepare you for the reality of the three foot high stalks, the buried/hidden bulbs underground (are they growing down there?), or the Seussian curly scapes that signal the garlic is almost ready to harvest. Nor does it prepare you for the realities of how to actually harvest the thing. Fresh garlic needs to cure or dry before it is used, but these are seriously thick stalks. Can we even braid them into some form of bulbous hair-like creation? And if so, where do we put them. And if we can’t braid them, where do we store them? Fresh garlic is like a gremlin, don’t get it wet.
The bulk of this garlic-based malaise is actually not mine to carry, but my landlord’s. We did not plant garlic because I figured it was a moot point since we couldn’t eat it due to Little Man’s FODMAP restrictions. That was… shall we say… shortsighted of me. SInce then I’ve found ways to use garlic (like in garlic infused oils) in cooking for LIttle Man, and there is the fact that Dave and I can eat garlic even if our son cannot. While the low FODMAP thing is working great for Little Man, my weight has gone up, my nails shatter just by looking at them cross eyed, and I’ve started coveting my neighbors garlic patch. Luckily our neighbors are kind, sharing people, and I have some fresh garlic curing downstairs as we speak with the promise of more garlic later in the season for us to plant for next year. The world is a kinder place because of it.