I grew up without garlic. Not one scent or taste. My late father, faithful to Irish ancestors, held steadfast antipathy for the bulb. Best I recollect, nary a clove entered his mouth or Mom’s kitchen.
She preferred to season food with onions. Other than parsley and mashed potatoes, I hardly knew a spud Mom didn’t bless with the common yellow onion, her culinary workhorse. She sliced for scalloped, diced for fried, and minced for au gratin.
On special occasions, she served sour cream and chives with baked Idaho potatoes, and the sweet Vidalia blended in summer’s creamy potato salad. Yet, her onion was not for the potato alone.
Come summer, she’d caramelize onion slices in bacon grease and add zucchini. My all time favorite is fresh greasy beans boiled with onion wedges and pork. An Appalachian side dish, the green shallot accented her pinto beans and cornbread pair. With this bountiful, delicious variety of alliums, I had no cause to encounter garlic.
Until one splendid Saturday my junior year in high school. Miss Mac, my academic counselor and cheerleading sponsor, drove our cheer squad to Northwood Institute in Midland for competition. We carried no award away that perfect, sunny day when Miss Mac turned north to her parents’ home. I had never stepped beyond Flint, so it seemed the drive took forever.
“Do you girls want to go to the Music Box tonight?” Miss Mac asked.
Mind, I loved to dance, and from what I’d heard, the Music Box’s reputation for great dancing and cute college guys was unmatched in Michigan. But how did Miss Mac know about the Music Box?
At last, she parked her car before a large cabin and led us through the front door into a mouthwatering aroma that wanted to buckle my knees with hunger.
Miss Mac lifted her soft voice. “Mom, Dad, we’re here.”
Her mother greeted us with a smile and apron tied around her wide waist. She reminded me of Granny. “How was your drive, Helen?”
So that was Miss MacDonald’s name. And what smells so scrumptious?
I hope I washed my hands and minded my manners that night. All I remember of her mother’s meal is hot, steamy garlic bread wrapped in aluminum foil. Miss Mac’s parents smiled at my friends and me in amusement.
We tidied our hair and cheerleading outfits best we could for our debut to Prudenville’s entertainment phenomenon. Excitement overcame my self-consciousness. It seemed odd to dance in my uniform.
Miss Mac lay down on the sofa. “My father will drive you girls to the Music Box. He’s a guard there and will bring you home.”
The dance floor was gigantic compared to The Chatterbox in Warren. The night passed in constant bliss, dancing with my friends and not enough cute guys.
Dear Reader, I woke the next morning in the house where Miss Mac grew up with garlic. Although Mom didn’t appreciate my cheer for Mrs. MacDonald’s bread, my daughters grew up with two workhorses in the kitchen. Garlic and onions.