Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Garlic-a-Go-Go: The Dirty Harry Method

My daughter’s gift is grace.  She moves lightly, like an angel on a cloud.  She dances ballet – en pointe no less {NOTE: That’s French for “on your toes” for all the Dads out there}.  She is also a synchronized swimmer, the water gratefully accepting her flowing presence as a kindred spirit.

But, ask her to help with the garlic and she turns into Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan, clearing the streets of San Francisco of all punks, laughing maniacs and garlic cloves.  The latter she obliterates, till there is nothing but a smudge of a whisper of where garlic might once have been.

I take credit for inventing the Dirty Harry method of crushing garlic, but my daughter perfected it.  If you watch all the cooking shows (well, not humanly possible to watch all the cooking shows but you know what I mean) you see the chefs crush garlic with their knives.  That’s fine when Giada de Laurentis has one or two cloves to chop, but we go through a lot of garlic in this house.  It’s not unusual for anything worth cooking to be worth an entire bulb of the aromatic jewels.  So, about a year ago I figured there had to be a way to speed up the process of prepping the garlic.  Some cloves can be stubborn and resist the side of the knife and your fist.  So, I got out the meat hammer and just started whacking them.  It worked just as well as Dirty Harry’s .44 magnum – ya hit ‘em once and they stay down.

Say it with me now, and get all squinty-eyed:
“I know what you’re thinkin’, did he clobber six cloves or only five.  Well, with the heady aroma wafting into my nostrils, I kinda lost track myself.  But, bein’ this is a meat hammer, a pound and a half of steel on a stick, you gotta be asking yourself one question – do I feel hungry?  Well, do ya punk?”

Somewhere at the non-Clint Eastwood end of the guy spectrum, even Alton Brown would appreciate the Dirty Harry method as it takes the meat mallet out of the uni-tasker category.  And, yes, I know that Clint Eastwood has likely never said the word “wafting.”

So, one evening I invited my daughter into the kitchen for a little father-daughter bonding.  As usual, she was quietly reading a book and stumbled into the kitchen, her brown hair framing her delicate face.  She’s a quiet, intelligent, loving early teen with a heart full of compassion for creation.  I instructed her in the basic technique: “Hold the mallet above the clove and WHACK IT!”  I expertly crushed a clove and peeled the remaining skin from the flesh.

She took the mallet gingerly, examining it in detail.  From her petite frame, she poised a trembling hand above an unsuspecting clove and I thought I would offer encouragement since violence against anything is just not in her nature: “Now the mistake you’ll make the first time is not hitting it hard enou –“

I was cut off by a deafening sound as a heavenly-scented mushroom cloud rose above the cutting board.  As the cloud cleared, I heard someone laughing a bit maniacally, like a Dirty Harry villain, and saw my daughter place another clove in front of her like loading a .44 magnum round into the chamber.

Again, she annihilated a clove with a loud “AIYEEEEE” banshee cry. 

Then the phone rang.  It was the folks from the European Union’s nuclear accelerator in France wondering what was going on.  I told them the planet was not in jeopardy, I was just cooking.  I congratulated them for being en pointe and hung up.

Across the rubble of the kitchen, my daughter stood, breathing heavily.  Garlic covered everything, like a light dusting of tasty snow.  Suddenly, she was my demure, quiet daughter again.

“Anything else?” she asked with a smile.

“No.  No, I’ll take it from here thanks.  Go read your book.”

“OK, Daddy.”


  1. that story is so cute. I also have a petite, loving early teen and I can relate!

  2. My father always lamented that I failed to retain anything he taught me in the Kitchen - however, when I got to college and began cooking for myself the latent memories from Dad's Kitchen came flooding back.

    I imagine this might be one of those for your daughter. :)