Last week, after pulling garlic from the field at Fleur-de-Lys and nestling the harvest in the bed of my pickup truck, I had a vague plan – very vague. I had 13 bins brimming with 13 varieties of heirloom garlic, each carefully labeled. Then the rains came. Luckily, a friend’s carport sheltered us (the garlic and me) from the first storm. The same friend convinced me to place each label in a plastic Ziploc – to avoid losing years of careful nurturing and monitoring by preventing the names from bleeding into unreadable ink spots – and helped me tuck everyone (the 13 garlic families) under a heavy-duty tarp.
I was barely out of Berks County when the downpour came, windshield wipers slapping from the Susquehanna to the Juniata, and then up over the Seven Mountains to Happy Valley. I backed into the “cart shed” with my precious cargo and recruited my son Richard and sister Leslie to help me unload.
I grew up just behind the second tee at Centre Hills Country Club, in the house where my mother still lives. This location created a youthful enterprise – Sugar and Spice Stables – where my four sisters and I rented spaces for golfers to store their golf carts. We bought our first pair of llamas, Paco and Suzette, with the proceeds. My mother still rents spaces for three golf carts and, after several generations, has one llama left (Belladona).
My vague plan was to somehow hang the garlic from the cart shed rafters … but serendipity prevailed. There, amongst the boxes of my life in storage, I spotted my antique shoe drying rack. My Italian grandfather, Abele, came to Pennsylvania from the Old Country with few belongings and a trade that served him well over the years – he was a cobbler and shoemaker. For years at 440 Hottenstein, this rustic wooden rack was used as a telephone shelf and storage place for my endless piles of paper. There it was, empty. The perfect place to cure my garlic – plenty of air circulation and racks for stacking the labeled garlic bins, and a few knobs to drape tied bunches of special garlic. Somehow it seemed especially fitting that the “roots” of my garlic found a home on a shoe drying rack amongst all of my earthly possessions.
Settling in has been a smooth adjustment. Our tomatoes and peppers and shallots look great, but the garden is overrun with brazen groundhogs and voracious bunnies who mowed down the green and purple beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and Poona Kheera cucumbers. I brought pots of chocolate mint and a Fleur-de-Lys fig, and spent a morning repotting Mother’s Day gift plants of avocado, guava, and Meyer lemon. (More on the tropical leanings of Fleur-de-Lys Central in a future blog.)
My mother loves having company and running errands to interact with people, even if she gets a bit perturbed with her eldest daughter. And vice versa. She absolutely deplores my Fleur-de-Lys fashion, or lack thereof, and her favorite questions about my attire are: “Aren’t you going to change?” and “Are you going to wear stockings?” It’s like I’m 15 all over again.
So, we stop at the neighborhood bank, and no, I didn’t change, and I wasn’t wearing stockings. We walk up to the bank manager (“the handsome one,” she always points out) and my mother has already complimented him on his tie (as she does on every visit). He takes one look at me and says, “Eat, Drink, Stink?” Well, yes, it has been 90+ and humid as a rainforest but … then I look down at my chest. I’m wearing an Easton Garlic Festival T-shirt emblazoned with the motto: Eat, Drink, Stink.
I mumble something about being a farmer without a farm, with a shed full of garlic, drivel, drivel, and his eyes light up. “I love garlic!” I asked if he grows it or just eats it – only the latter. I asked him where his ancestors were from. “Italy, of course.” And I told him I’d be back with a gift.
A few days later I bundled up and labeled some soft-neck Chet’s Italian Red and some gorgeous hard-neck German White, stuck them in a paper bag and we were off on a road trip to the bank. The conversation in the car went something like this:
“Why are you taking garlic to the bank?”
I retell the T-shirt story.
“He’s so handsome. Are you flirting with him?”
“Mothhhhhherrrrr, he’s married.”
“How do you know?”
“Because every time you compliment him on his tie he says that either his wife or his daughter bought it for him.”
“Well, he is cute but I don’t know why you’re bringing him garlic.”
“I’m bringing it to him and all of the bank tellers because they like garlic.”
“Well, it looks kind of messy with those stalks sticking out of the bag.”
“I thought it was a good way to show them how garlic grows.”
“He is really handsome. Do you think he’s married?”
Ah, life at Fleur-de-Lys Central, where I’m just spreading the holy grail of garlic, one bank at a time. Laurie Lynch
Good Eat: Once there was the Egg Lady, now there is the Chicken Wing Man! Richard won the Hartranft Hall Chicken Wing Eating Contest the other night. Magic number? 32. While we were moving, Richard took one look at me: sweaty brow, pitted out T-shirt, etc., and said he knew where his sweat genes came from … I’ve never eaten “Wings” – too boney for me — so I can’t take any of the credit for his culinary appetite genes.
Good Drink: I’m still waiting for my buddy Lisa to send me her recipe for Garlic Ice Cream … but until then, I’ll share this cooling tip I borrowed from the Dynasty Restaurant in Tiburon, CA, when Richard and I visited my mother’s dear friend and college roommate Trig. The waiter carried a water pitcher that was stuffed with mint leaves and then filled with ice water. So refreshing. I’m doing the same (in an old juice bottle), filling it with chocolate mint leaves and adding water to keep in the frig. Give it a try.
Good Read: “The Novel” by James Michener. Made the easing out of Berks County and the Lehigh Valley a little less abrupt and less painful.
Good Escape: To get away from the stifling heat my mother, sister Larissa and I went to see “Midnight in Paris.” Yeah, I loved it, and I bet you will too. Great scenes of a beautiful city and fabulous concept for fellow bookworms.