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Garlic, an Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology behind the World's Most Pungent Food--with over 100 Recipes Paperback – November 11, 2014
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“Everything you need to know about the most celebrated, and vilified, of stinky roots.”—The New York Times
“Garlic lovers unite and delight in Robin Cherry’s splendid and comprehensive edible biography of garlic. No other member of the Allium family has been as maligned and rebuffed throughout history as this stinky bulb. Yet, its powerful medicinal benefits have been touted for centuries. This masterful work integrates the history, legends, lore, and even vampire tales, along with an inspired selection of recipes from condiments to desserts. A must have book for a cook’s library."—Diane Morgan, author of Roots: The Definitive Compendium
“I have always loved the diversity of flavors that garlic adds to a dish, depending on how you cook it. This lovely historical and international tour of the many faces of garlic, with enticing recipes, is a wonderful addition to anyone interested in learning to use garlic in more ways in their kitchen.”—Tama Matsuoka Wong, forager for Daniel, NYC and author of Foraged Flavor
About the Author
Travel writer and historian ROBIN CHERRY is the author of Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail-Order Shopping. She was the publisher of Organic Style books and the circulation director of Organic Gardening and Organic Style magazines at Rodale. She has written for The Atlantic, Travel + Leisure, Dwell, Salon, and many other publications and websites.
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FOR THE RECORD....being friends with the author doesn't make my review dishonest, I'm rather impressed with this book and have given it as gifts.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One focuses on everything but the recipes. Part Two is the recipes. Part One’s chapters cover the history of using garlic for health and for food, garlic in legends and lore, and how to grow your own. This is the section that most entertained my friends and fiancé, as they found themselves the recipients of random facts about garlic. One friend received an email of all of the types of garlic that originated in the country of Georgia; another a tip that growing some near her fruit tree might be beneficial for the tree.
Part One ends with tips on how to cultivate garlic and a selection of the various types of garlic, including notes on where they grow best, how they look, and how they taste. Garlic may be broadly divided into hardnecks and softnecks, but there are subvarieties within these two main ones. (Softnecks are the ones that you can braid). My one criticism of Part One is that I wish it had gone more in-depth into the history of garlic all over the world. It left me wanting more. Perhaps there isn’t more, but I certainly wish there was. I would additionally note that, although I personally enjoyed reading about the many varieties of garlic and took copious notes, some readers might find the listing of the types a bit tedious to read and may not be expecting it in a book of this nature.
Part Two is the recipes. It starts with notes on how to handle and prepare garlic. The recipes are then divided into: dips, sauces, and condiments; bread, pizza, and pasta; soups; salads and salad dressings; appetizers; poultry; lamb; beef; seafood; vegetarian; side dishes; dessert; and historical recipes. I marked off a total of 19 recipes that I definitely want to try, which is quite a lot for me. Often I’ll read a cookbook and only be interested in one or two of the recipes. The recipes cover a nice variety of cuisines, and the historic recipes are fascinating, although most readers will probably not try them as they require things such as fresh blood. Besides the historic recipes, the dessert ones are probably the most surprising. I actually did mark one off as one I’d like to try–Roasted Garlic Creme Brulee.
I have managed to make one of the recipes so far: Garlic Scape Pesto (loc 1649). For those who don’t know, garlic scapes are the green stalks that grow out of the bulbs. They must be trimmed (on most varieties). They taste a bit like a cross between garlic and leeks. Our local produce box happened to give us a bunch of them right around when I read the book, and I’m a big pesto fan, so I decided to try the recipe.
The recipe is supposed to make 2 cups. I halved it, and somehow still wound up with 2 cups of pesto. The recipe suggests storing the leftovers under a layer of olive oil. I found that unnecessary. My extra kept in the fridge in a tupperware container for a week without adding a layer of protective oil. The pesto was truly delicious though. I partially chose it since I have made garlic scape pesto before, and I must say I found this one much more delicious than the other recipe that I tried. I am looking forward to trying the others I am interested in, although I will probably continue to halve the recipes, as I am only cooking for two.
Overall, foodies with a love of garlic will find this book both fascinating and a source of new recipes to try. Some readers may wish for more information, while others may find themselves a bit more informed on the varieties of garlic than they were really looking for. All will find themselves chock full of new information and eager to try new ways to use garlic…and perhaps even to start growing some heirloom varieties for themselves.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
After an introduction from author Robin Cherry on how important and meaningful garlic has been to her, it is on to “Part One: The Story Of Garlic.” The four chapters in this section of over 100 pages explain the history of garlic in food, health, and literature, modern uses, and how to grow your own. Also included in this section are short bios of all the various garlic types which number far more than what you will ever find in your local store or produce market.
“Part Two: Recipes” begins on page 117 with a 4 page recipe list of all the recipes and their corresponding page numbers. That is followed by three pages on how to properly handle garlic before one moves on to “Dips, Sauces and Condiments” on page 125-130. All of that prepares you for “Bread, Pizza, and Pasta” (pages 141-146), “Beef” (pages 197-202), “Side Dishes” (pages 227-232) and more. Each recipe has an intro that often features a cooking tip or other advice that might include another history lesson, a list of ingredients needed, and instructions that include information on number of servings.
An acknowledgement page, a two page bibliography, an 11 page index, and a one page short author bio bring this 265 page book to a close.
While Garlic, An Edible Biography is interesting it suffers from two significant drawbacks. Surprising it does not contain any pictures of the various garlic types the book covers nor does it contain any pictures of the finished dishes. In addition to the lack of pictures that would have helped break up the bland and very dry text, there is zero nutritional information regarding fat/salt content or other possible dietary restrictions or needs.
Garlic, An Edible Biography is quite the garlic resource. With the noted forgoing limitations, if you want to know quite a lot more about garlic and how to use it, this is a book worthy of your consideration.
Garlic, An Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology behind the World’s Most Pungent Food with over 100 Recipes
Roost Books (Imprint of Shambhala publications, Inc.)
Paperback (also available in e-book form)
Material was picked up to read and review via the good folks of the Haggard Branch of the Plano Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015
"Garlic is the Lord Byron of produce, a lusty rogue that charms and seduces you but runs off before dawn, leaving a bad taste in your mouth.......Yet....."