Everything Tastes Better With Garlic
by Sara Perry
photographs by France Ruffenach
Published by Chronicle Books
132 pages, 2004
Reviewed by Monica Stark
Garlic is one of those things. It inspires either passion or a passion to avoid: there's not much in between. It will show you where my alliances stand when I tell you that I don't honestly believe any true foodies fall into the latter camp. A rich gastronomic life without garlic? It's impossible to think about.
Author Sara Perry clearly feels the same way. She begins the latest in her Everything Tastes Better series by saying, "Imagine cooking without it. Who would onions play with?" And though fastidious would-be gourmets worry about the lingering effects of garlic, Perry reassures us:
To love garlic, to completely give yourself over to its glory, is to banish all worries about breath and bad odors. Garlic tastes fabulous. ... Its magic fills your mouth with a fantastic flavor. As for the smell, heck, it's downright perfume. The beauty of garlic is that it can be as sweet and delicate as a first kiss or as lively and lusty as an all-night orgy. It's all in the way it is wooed.
And because she knows her way around these things, Perry spends the balance of Everything Tastes Better With Garlic helping us learn how to woo garlic properly and in many different ways. She begins with basic garlic knowledge: What is garlic? Where does it come from? How do you tell different types of garlic apart? Some nuts and bolts garlic knowledge is followed by Garlic Tips: buying, storing, handling and cooking with garlic. Perry deals with all of this information -- and more besides -- as elegantly and efficiently as she has done consistently in her books. You look at the few pages and think: "That's not enough!" But, upon reading, you discover that everything is here.
This elegantly economic style carries over onto Perry's handling of the recipes themselves. Perry's chapters are sensible and complete and, mercifully, she resisted the urge to include a chapter on desserts: the single recipe for garlic ice cream suffices at any rate. As much as I love garlic, thinking about it being added to cakes and puddings is a little too much of a good thing. Instead we're treated to a cornucopia of garlicky goodness: a full slate of recipes that include great renditions of old standards like Bagna Cuda, Garlic Focaccia, Caesar Salad and Skordalia as well as original creations like Six Cloves Mac and Cheese, Aïoli Tuna Melt and Chilled Cucumber Soup with Garlic and Mint.
Sara Perry's excellent cookbooks include Valentine Treats, Everything Tastes Better With Bacon and The New Complete Coffee Book. With clear, easy to follow recipes, luscious color photographs -- this time by France Ruffenach -- and a theme deserving of a collection, Everything Tastes Better With Garlic is a worthy addition to Perry's growing catalog of cookbooks. | August 2004
Monica Stark is a January Magazine contributing editor.