Book Review: Garlic, an Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology Behind the World’s Most Pungent Food — With Over 100 Recipes by Robin Cherry
A history of the world and medicine as seen through the eyes of garlic, plus a lesson on the many varieties of garlic, how to grow it, and where to find other garlic lovers. Topped off with a collection of over 100 recipes from all over the world featuring garlic, both historic and new.
When I saw this book on NetGalley, I knew I needed a review copy. I’m a passionate home chef with a love of garlic and a never-ending interest on the history of food. This book’s title indicated it would hit all three of those interests, and its content did not let me down.
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. Here are a few of my favorite facts that I learned in Part One:
- The world’s first-known medical text also mentions medical uses of garlic (loc 129)
- Garlic is designated as a drug in Japan (loc 222)
- Spanish immigrants were the most likely to survive during the colonization of the Western hemisphere, thanks to their consumption of garlic. Carrying the cloves protected them from disease-carrying mosquitoes. (loc 309-313)
- Garlic vodka is used as an antiflu remedy in Russia (Bonus: the book has the recipe for making this for yourself). (loc 392)
- “In addition to preventing colds, garlic is effective in killing viral meningitis, viral pneumonia, influenza, and herpes.” (loc 423)
- “Garlic also kills bacteria directly, by invading its cells and causing them to explode, thus bacteria has not opportunity to develop a resistance to it.” (loc 427)
- “Green-colored garlic is stronger than white garlic because it contains more of the aromatic sulfuric compounds.” (loc 922)
- The earliest bridal bouquets incorporated garlic to ward off the evil spirits. (loc 1067)
- There are over 200 varieties of garlic. (loc 1203)
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.
4 out of 5 stars
Emma Goldman was a Russian immigrant to the United States who embraced Anarchism and became an impassioned orator and pioneer in the movement for birth control. She was deported in 1919 for her antiwar activities and spent the remainder of her life moving among multiple countries. This book is a collection of a variety of her essays and includes a contemporaneous biographical sketch and preface. You may read more about Emma Goldman and her life here.
I picked up this essay collection due to my interest in both US and women’s history. It then languished on my TBR pile for years until I heard about how the Emma Goldman Archive at UC Berkeley was going to lose its funding (source). The archive is currently still running thanks to charitable donations, (source) but I still wanted to invest some time in learning more about this important female historical figure, and what better way than by reading her own papers.
The essays in this collection are: Anarchism: What It Really Stands For, Minorities Versus Majorities, The Psychology of Political Violence, Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure, Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty, Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School, The Hypocrisy of Puritanism, The Traffic in Women, Woman Suffrage, The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation, Marriage and Love, and The Modern Drama: A Powerful Dissenter of Radical Thought.
The thing to understand about Anarchism (the historic early 20th century kind anyway, I won’t venture to talk about modern Anarchism as I have not studied it at all) is that the basis of Anarchist belief is that there should be no government and no religion.
Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through man’s subordination. (page 38)
Emma took this to the conclusion that fighting for rights within the governmental power structure was pointless since the government shouldn’t be involved anyway. Modern readers may thus be surprised at how against women getting the right to vote she was. The reasoning behind it, though was that she thought it was a pointless fight. Like putting frosting on a shit cake. It won’t make the cake any less shitty. It’s interesting reading these papers how much faith Emma had in human nature to do good. It’s the power structures she considered evil.
My lack of faith in the majority is dictated by my faith in the potentialities of the individual. (page 34)
What I found most interesting in reading these essays, beyond getting a firmer understanding of Anarchism, is how most of them are still highly relatable today. They have not been particularly dated. Only “Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School” and “The Modern Drama: A Powerful Dissenter of Radical Thought” came across as dated and a bit difficult to read to me. The rest could have been pulled straight from a social justice Tumblr account, with just a few names and places changed. The three essays on women were the most interesting to me, particularly for the rather prophetic predictions that Emma made about the direction women’s rights were heading. In particular, one section discusses that women winning the right to work will just make everything more difficult because women are still seen as the primary caregivers and homemakers. They will just end up working just as much at home and out and about. Emma also pointed out that society would come to expect two incomes, making it impossible for women to not work even if they want to. This has certainly come to pass. Emma’s solution to this is more individual freedom, and her passage of advice to women still rings true today:
Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.; by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities, by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation. (page 132)
Sections that would probably stir up the strongest feelings among modern readers include frequent rants against the Catholic church, hatred of all patriotism or nationalism, very strong anti-military positions, and a strong negative view of marriage. However, if the modern reader keeps in mind that Emma was for 100% individual freedom and individuality, it’s easier to see that it’s not an individual institution she had something against, but rather institutions in general. Think of her as an extreme libertarian, and it’s easier to understand. In the case of marriage, for instance, it’s not that Emma was against love or being part of a couple, but rather against the state being involved in that love.
One aspect I think was missing from these essays was more from Emma on what she thought the ideal world would really look like. How would things work once total individual freedom was won? This is not touched upon very much, beyond Emma’s belief that crime would disappear without crooked institutions and there would be no more war. I found her belief in innate human goodness to be overly optimistic, verging on naive. But I also found it to be endearing that she had so much faith in humanity.
Overall, the modern reader will still find most of these essays highly readable and may be surprised by how modern many of them feel. Readers will realize how little some things change through time and also will come away with a better understanding of the stance of the often feared and misunderstood Anarchists.
4 out of 5 stars
Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge
Book Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Julia Whelan)
Pen’s life was destroyed when an Earthshaker took away her family (even their dog) and destroyed the Los Angeles she once knew. She’s now on a quest to save them from the monstrous giants that rose up after (or with?) the Earthshaker. Along the way she finds other teens who’ve miraculously survived, each with secrets and talents of their own.
This book left me completely torn. I loved, oh how I loved, the representation of both bisexual (Pen) and trans (Hex, her boyfriend) teens. But the story to go with these teens failed to live up to both these wonderful characters and the beautiful title.
Let’s talk about the good first, because I don’t want it to be overshadowed by what didn’t work. Pen is a bookish teenager who generally prefers to stay in reading the Encyclopedia or The Odyssey to going out to parties. But she still has two close friends. She’s not a loner. She’s brave, open, loving, and sometimes makes rather short-sighted decisions. And it is gradually revealed throughout the book that she is also bisexual. The scenes exploring Pen’s bisexuality, and how it’s hard for her to be out about it, in spite of being completely comfortable with herself, are wonderfully done. Pen acknowledges that even though her parents have always told her that it doesn’t matter a whit if she is straight, lesbian, bisexual, or trans, that the world at large doesn’t always think that, and that’s part of what makes being out hard for her. The world is not always the welcoming place her family is.
The book early on establishes that Pen currently has a crush on a boy, so the reader may perhaps be surprised when she reminisces about an earlier crush on a girl, and how she first realized she liked girls too.
Thinking of how I once kissed Moira on the lips. We were drunk and dancing, and our lips just brushed for that electroshock nanosecond, and then she smiled at some boys who were watching us, laughed, and danced away from me like it was a joke. But I’d had an epiphany, even though I hadn’t fully accepted it at the time. I wanted to kiss girls. And it was no joke. (loc 2:14:53)
Similarly, Pen struggles with self-editing her past when telling Hex about her life before the Earthshaker. She is not sure if he’ll understand or accept the fact that she’s perfectly capable of having crushes on girls as well as boys like himself, so she edits herself when speaking to him. She’s telling him a story about a party she didn’t go to, and the picture that her friends sent her of a boy with her friend, Moira:
I went to sleep staring at the last image wondering not what his mouth tasted like but hers. This part, this last, I don’t tell Hex, although I trust him enough to tell him anything. Don’t I? So I’m not sure why I don’t. Because I don’t want him to know I had a crush on a girl? Or because I have a crush on him. (loc 1:39:44)
It’s rare to see a book explore so eloquently what it is to be bisexual, and these feelings Pen has while not universal still explore the difficulty of coming out and being out as a bisexual person, and they were so wonderful to see in a book that I had to restrain myself from jumping up and shouting “Yes!” when they showed up on my audiobook on the bus.
Similarly, Hex, Pen’s love interest and eventual boyfriend (this is not a spoiler, when Hex shows up he may as well have a giant neon “future boyfriend” sign over his head), is a FTM transman. Hex is just as nervous about being out to Pen and their other travel companions as Pen is about being out to him, probably more. Being cis myself, I can’t say as definitively about the quality of FTM representation as I could about bisexuality, however, the author certainly tries to broach topics that I believe would be of interest to a trans YA reader reading this book: acceptance (or not) by family members and impact on romantic relationships with other teens. Hex comes out to Pen as a transman only because she has fallen for him, and he wants her to know precisely who he is before anything more *ahem* romantic happens. Pen immediately accepts him and tells him he is clearly a boy to her, and this changes nothing about how she feels about him. They then have to navigate their sex life. Hex, like many trans people, is uncomfortable with his body. He would rather touch Pen than allow Pen to touch him. Eventually, they reach an arrangement that both supports and asserts Hex’s maleness and allows Pen to give the pleasure back to him that she wants to. I was glad to see a YA book “go there.” I frankly haven’t seen much of that even in adult literature including a trans person. It both addresses the “how do they….” question some YA readers would certainly have after learning about Hex and also serves a purpose in the story to demonstrate a mature, healthy, loving relationship between the two characters.
In addition to Hex and Pen, they also wind up with two male travel companions who become a couple. The characters themselves point out at one point how odd it is that the minority before the Earthshakers is now the majority (none of them are straight AND cis). I was glad the author acknowledged the quirk and had the characters process why that may be. The answer they decide upon is a positive one, rather than the potentially negative one of punishment.
So now let’s talk about what didn’t work. The plot and the setting. The book is meant to be a magical realism style story told in a non-linear way. This could have worked if in the end the overarching plot, when reassessed by the reader from beginning to end, made sense. But it doesn’t. For most of the book, Pen refers to everything in fantastical ways, such as saying “Earthshaker” for what appears to the reader to be an earthquake. Why is she saying “Earthshaker”? Was there something different about it? Does she just like prettying up her language? What is going on with that? Later it is revealed that an earthquake seems to have happened when some genetically engineered giants escaped (showed up? were released?). The whole world basically goes to shit overnight, though, and it just doesn’t seem logical that that would happen from just a few giants escaping. Similarly, there are other fantastical creatures who are never explained.
Similarly, although it is indicated early on that this is a modern retelling of The Odyssey, it doesn’t line up well with the original. In the original, Odysseus is trying to come home after a war and keeps getting swept into side-quests. In this book, Pen starts out at home and then quests away from home. It would have made more sense for Pen to be somewhere away from home (maybe on a school trip or something), have the disaster occur, and then have her have to find her way home encountering fantastical things along the way. Starting her at home just doesn’t work.
Several elements feel like they are just thrown in because they look pretty or work with the scene even though they don’t work with the book as a whole. For instance, butterflies appearing around people who can be trusted pops up in the middle of the book, but isn’t particularly present at the beginning or the end. Similarly, some characters are revealed to have magical powers toward the end of the book, with no foreshadowing about that, only to have them….not use them much beyond the scene where it’s revealed.
Also, I’m sorry, but the whole some evil scientist genetically engineered giants to be his children and now the giants are out to destroy us but also the whole world inexplicably now resembles a myth just really doesn’t work. First, it makes no sense why a scientist would even want to engineer a giant. To be his children? Really? Why would anyone want giant children? Second, to give the mystical elements that started this whole thing a scientific explanation but then leave the rest fantastical doesn’t work. Either they’re all explained by science or they’re all fantastical. I really felt the book went way downhill for me when there was suddenly a “scientific” explanation for the giants. But just the giants and nothing else.
Finally, we need to talk about the name of the book. It’s a beautiful title but it’s really wasted on this book. First, global warming doesn’t come into play in the book at all, so why is it mentioned in the title? Second, it’s clearly a send-up to Love in the Time of Cholera, but it has nothing in common with that book save both having elements of magical realism in them. It feels as if the author came up with a title that sounded pretty and couldn’t bring herself to let go of it in spite of it not fitting the book she actually wrote.
Overall, this is a short read featuring four well-rounded and written teen characters on the LGBTQ spectrum. YA readers looking for positive representations of bisexual and trans characters, in particular, and who don’t mind some inexplicable fantasy elements will enjoy this quick read. Readers who will easily be bothered by the title not matching the content, a mixture of magical realism and scientific explanations for things, and/or nonlinear plots that when told linearly don’t make sense should probably look elsewhere, in spite of the positive representations of underrepresented letters in the LGBTQ spectrum.
3 out of 5 stars
Aiyana Gamelle has been sleepwalking, waking up on the beach of the half Gullah, half Native American Sa’Fyre Island off the coast of South Carolina. But she knows she’ll soon be transitioning to being Queen of the Gullah half of the island, due to being directly descended from both the founders and a mysterious African goddess, so she brushes it off and focuses on the festival she’s organized on the island to bring in more revenue. But when an important island guest is murdered and her grandmother passes away before the official crowning ceremony, an unwanted family curse is slowly revealed.
This is one of the six indie books I accepted for review on this blog in 2015. Everything about it from the title to the description stuck out to me both as something that I hadn’t seen a mainstream publisher get around to trying in many years and also as something that piqued my interest. An island that’s half Gullah and half Native American? (Never heard of the Gullah? Check out this informative article about them). A woman inheriting a position of power from another woman? A family curse? Yes please! I am happy to say that the book more than lived up to my expectations, it also had some unexpected elements that I was delightfully surprised by.
The known history of the island and the Gamelle family is well told early in the book. It comes through in bits and pieces at just the right times. There is never an info dump. Similarly, Aiyana and her siblings are slowly revealed, going from how you may first perceive them to more well-rounded characters throughout the book. The island and the people on it are incredibly well described. I had no trouble imagining what this island may be like, despite having never been to the Carolinas myself.
One thing that caught me by surprise in the book and that I think should be promoted more in its promotional materials, as it’s something that is often sought after, is the romance between Aiyana (who is half-Native American and half-Gullah, since her mother dated her Native American father against the wishes of both sides) and one of the Native American men on the island. It’s an inter-racial relationship….with no white people. I can’t remember the last time I saw that in a book, frankly, and I was happy to see it.
This is primarily a mystery/horror book though, so let’s talk about the mystery plot. It takes many twists and turns, none of which I expected but all of which ultimately made sense. I found it at times grotesque and at other times it kept me on the edge of my seat. All the time I was always rooting for Aiyana, which is exactly what I generally want out of a mystery.
One negative I would say is that it’s a bit unclear if the book is the first in a series or a standalone. Amazon mentions it being the first in a series, but neither the GoodReads record nor the page about it on the author’s website mention it being the start of a series. If it is the start of a series, the book’s slightly abrupt ending works. If it’s a standalone, then I would want a bit more closure at the end. If it is the start of a series, then I’d say perhaps a quick “Look for more Sa’Fyre Island adventures coming soon!” at the end would be an excellent addition to help the reader know to expect more and to keep them coming back.
Overall, this is both a fun and a quite different entry into the mystery genre. A Gullah woman takes the center stage of the mystery, rather than being a prop. The mystery is well crafted and told, and there’s even the bonus of a bit of romance in the book. Recommended for readers looking for a completely different mystery from what they may be used to reading and who don’t mind a bit of the fantastical showing up in the plot.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review