Oct 11, 2011

Simplicity and garlic

I used to be a technical writer. For years I struggled to explain complex software to people who just want to get the job done and go home. One of the things I noticed is that often when we try to make things simple, we  actually make them unnecessarily complicated.

A good example is how we deal with garlic. I use a lot of garlic. I consider the allium family a food group. The problem is that working with garlic requires that the cook develop a simple skill, removing the skin from the clove. It's not hard to do. Most of the time you're going to mince the clove, so a smack with the side of the cleaver or knife will both flatten the clove nicely and loosen the skin so it's easy to remove. Then you just cut off the hard tip and mince it.

It boggles my mind how far people will go to avoid doing this simple kitchen job. I was in a kitchen store the other day, to buy a couple of large storage jars and I noticed that they had an entire section of tools dedicated to the single purpose of skinning and mincing garlic cloves, and I realized that were I to outfit my kitchen with the full panoply of garlic utensils, it would cost hundreds of dollars and fill all my drawers with junk. There are: garlic presses, garlic twists, garlic rolls, garlic crushers, garlic choppers garlic peelers, garlic slicers, garlic graters, garlic planes, garlic mandolins, garlic shakers, garlic roasters, garlic bakers, garlic savers, garlic keepers, single-purpose electric garlic roasters and something called a garlic zoom. Holy Mackerel! Garlic management seems to have reached a crisis point.

I do not use a special tube or roll or mechanical device to take the skin off. I do not use a garlic press to mash it up. I hate cleaning garlic presses. I'm sure that people who have any of these fancy tools that get clogged with pulp and skins must own dishwashers. I don't. I wash everything by hand and I dislike things that take a long time to clean. I don't buy special garlic jars.I use garlic often enough to avoid long periods of storage.  

It may sound a bit as if I am making a virtue out of necessity, and perhaps that's part of it, but I really do  like my kitchen simple. This is personal opinion. I don't really care what tools other people use, and some of my favorite cooks use some crazy space age gadgets. I, myself, have a food processor, a toaster, a microwave, a rice cooker, and a refrigerator, so I'm not some intense Luddite, but most of my cooking is done with a cleaver a cutting board  and a couple of pots.

It ain't macrobiotic but it is a kind of zen. 

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