Matt and I had a great Saturday yesterday. His schedule for the past week had been such that he and I had spent no time together. So, we went out for breakfast, took a nap, watched one of our favorite movies (“The Bourne Identity”) and did a little Christmas shopping (for ourselves). Matt also planned dinner by preparing a stew in the crock pot — it simmered all day, filling the house with great smells.
The stew was really good. We, like most families, especially two-member families, often find it easier to grab a bowl of cereal, a sandwich, etc., then to go to the trouble of cooking a full meal. Thus, when one of us do cook, it is a special treat.
The only small complaint that we both had about the stew was that there was too much garlic in it. Garlic is like a lot of things in life — a little bit is good, a lot of it is deadly. And there is a thin line between “right amount” and “too much”. This is true for M&Ms, vodka, ice cream, and “Beverly Hills 90210” reruns. First-hand experience with garlic is essential when cooking.
I will never forget my first real cooking experience with garlic. Like many people, it was only after graduating from college that I was forced to cook for myself (or others). I discovered recipes — what a great invention — a how-to for creating a dish. Cooking wasn’t that hard — why did people complain?? Get your ingredients, add this, stir in that, bake at this temperature, et voila. Supper.
Thus, I decided to try lasagna. Since I had been so successful with earlier recipes, I wanted to try a complicated lasagna dish, or at least more complicated recipe than what I had grown up with — hamburger, noodles, ricotta cheese, spaghetti sauce. I picked out a recipe that called for Italian sausage, where the sauce wasn’t from a jar but made from scratch, where there were three or four different kinds of cheese. I was ready to turn it on for the lasagna.
Everything seemed to be going well until it came time to add the minced garlic. The recipe called for 3 cloves of minced garlic (I remember the exact amount 15 years later). I had purchased the prepackaged jars of minced garlic instead of mincing my own (I may have wanted to try something more complicated, but I didn’t want to do more work than absolutely necessary). I added the required amount of garlic. Five minutes later, I thought the wallpaper was going to start peeling off the walls.
Through the tears streaming down my eyes, I tried to discover why the fumes were almost visible in the house. Rereading the recipe and then the jars of garlic, I realized my error. One clove of garlic was equal to 1/2 tablespoon of the minced garlic from the jar. I had misread the jar and thought that 1 clove of garlic was equal to 1 jar. So, three jars of minced garlic had gone into my lasagna. I estimate it to be about 167 cloves of garlic.
We did not eat lasagna that night. We could barely live in the house for the next week. I learned to read, reread and often have someone else read the “this amount equals this amount” directions on any jar of ingredients. And I don’t eat anything that makes my eyes water (or repels vampires, zombies, inferior friends).