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Book review: In Pursuit of Garlic

Confessions of a woman in love… with the stinking lily

In Pursuit of Garlic
An intimate look at the divinely odorous bulb
By Liz Primeau

They say powerful personalities are polarizing; some folks we either love or hate. Garlic is like that. It’s hard to feel neutral about it, and it has captured the imagination of spiritualists, doctors, gardeners and cooks for hundreds of years. The potent stuff can stop a vampire—or the common cold—in their tracks. With one deep whiff, a fresh bulb can render a chef weak in the knees or drive an old, British granny out of the kitchen.

In her book, Liz Primeau, founding editor of Canadian Gardening magazine, delves into the history of this wondrous bulb—a member of the lily family—and explores its ancient history and lore. Her chapters are packed with good old-fashioned storytelling as well as quick facts and charts. She also lets the reader in on a little secret—she didn’t discover garlic until she was 17 and in love with a boy who introduced her to real spaghetti. Now, if you are of a certain age and come from a decidedly Anglo-Saxon background, you will know what she’s talking about. The rest of you with roots in Asia, Europe, South America—anywhere else, really—may now commence snickering. Olive oil, wine, garlic; these were mysterious and foreign, associated with immigrants and labourers who lived in different, often less savoury, parts of town. Thank goodness, times have changed.

Primeau takes us with her to two garlic festivals—garlic ice cream, anyone?—and into the kitchen, providing recipes, chopping and preserving methods. She also takes us into the garden, listing the best cultivars for your region, what they look and taste like and how to grow them; and off to France to hunt for legendary and elusive Ail Rose de Lautrec. 

You don’t need to be a garlic lover to love this book, just a lover of gardening and the various passions—some might say; obsessions—that many gardeners are afflicted with. Primeau invites the reader to come along on her aromatic journey.

What makes this book so great: We’re suckers for a good story—who isn’t? We’re especially excited when a ton of useful information is all wrapped up inside a delicious narrative with descriptive, engaging prose, so real you can almost taste it.

Price: $19.95
Publisher: Greystone Books

* We've excerpted a fabulous recipe from the book: Cold-coming-on soup!


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