Love in the time of garlic


The picture of Saint Valentine, patron of lovers, depicts him with birds at his feet and roses at his side. Geoffrey Chaucer is responsible for the birds. People in the Middle Ages believed that birds chose their mates in the middle of February. In his Parliament of Foules, Chaucer wrote: “For this was on seynt Valentynes day/ Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make” (309/310). The spelling looks remarkably like that found in modern text messages and e-mails. To comfort myself at night, I tell myself that young people are not bad spellers, they are merely returning to Middle English, the language of Chaucer.


We can hold the Greeks and Romans responsible for the roses at Saint Valentine’s side because like Chaucer they are not here to defend themselves. Many of their stories about the god of love, Eros to the Greeks, Cupid to the Romans, included roses.


If I could embellish the saint’s picture, I would have him hold a box of dark chocolates in his right hand and next to the roses plant some stinking roses, an affectionate name for garlic. For me, love isn’t love if it doesn’t smell of garlic.


Part of the attraction between my husband and me is the love of garlic. For our anniversary a few years ago, we bought one another garlic presses. He was traveling and had to spend several months living on his own. How could I send him out into the world without a garlic press? The one we had at the time was old, so we went to a kitchen specialty store and shopped together. He looked over the presses and chose a conventional one that crushes the garlic, while I dithered over the deluxe model that could crush or slice, even at the same time! In spite of the high cost, he bought it for me. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

No matter how you slice it, this garlic press proves my husband has a crush on me.

Over the years we have met people who do not or cannot eat garlic. We understand those who cannot eat garlic, but not those who choose not to. We will still love you if you don’t eat garlic, but we will probably talk about you behind your back.


“Gert is coming over for dinner, honey, so we can’t use any garlic.”


Look of consternation. “Does she have a doctor’s note?”


Look of surprise. “You know I forgot to ask. She looks so honest, and she said it upsets her stomach.”


Later that day on the phone. “Hi, Gert. About your allergy to garlic. My husband and I were wondering, do you have any kind of documentation? It’s not necessary, of course, but if you have some, we would really like you to bring it with you tonight when you come over for dinner.”


Tonight, in honor of St. Valentine and his name, which comes from the Latin valens meaning strong, powerful, and healthy, I plan to make something strong, powerful, and healthy: Death by Garlic pasta. You can find a number of recipes online, but go here to find a simple one that uses 10 cloves of garlic. If that sounds too wimpy, or you have a fear of vampires, or you are feeling particularly romantic, you can double the amount of garlic and fall in love twice as hard. Otherwise, just cut a clove of garlic and rub it behind your ears and on your pulse points. If your husband is anything like mine, he will do anything you say.


If you are still wondering what to buy your loved one for this special day, remember that while flowers and chocolates are always welcome, nothing says Valentine’s Day like the fine bouquet of the stinking rose.


59 thoughts on “Love in the time of garlic

  1. DomeniiNebunie

    “To comfort myself at night, I tell myself that young people are not bad spellers, they are merely returning to Middle English, the language of Chaucer.” – best excuse made for poor spelling yet!

    Also, I’m sharing in the love for garlic!


  2. Marvelous! I never noticed how text abbreviations resemble ye Olde Middle English, but how true. I would say that before long some teenager out there will surely come up with a sequel to Beowulf (Beowulf 2: Grendel Strikes Back), due to the infinite monkey theorem if nothing else, except it would never fit in a single tweet (or is the singular “twit?”).

  3. A simply DELICIOUS post!
    Why do you suppose St. V has those little blue wings? I find them very fetching, of course, but never suspected they would be among his attributes. (I hope it’s not a big blue jay trying to mate with him!)

  4. You know I’ve been really Grinch-tastic about Valentine’s Day this year for no particular reason that comes to mind.

    However, reading your short history of St. Valentine (a story I know well) combined with your tightly woven dialogue on Middle English plus your husband’s and your love of the stinking rose— let’s just say I never had a chance.

    My heart grew three sizes this morning thanks to you! (And now I’m craving Cuban-style garlic chicken.) Thank you, Yearstricken!

  5. Talk to me...I'm your Mother

    Yup! I’m allergic to garlic but oftimes I prefer to have my face break out than to miss out or leave it out. After all…a little puffiness around the eyes may smooth out some of those dratted wrinkiles.

  6. winsomebella

    Your posts are so witty and funny that I feel compelled to come up with a witty and funny comment. Alas, it’s not happening. So, bravo!

  7. Ooh I love garlic. And I love that recipe. I make it frequently, whenever I need something quick and wonderful. We realized when our son was in junior high that we always ate it just before parent-teacher conferences. Somehow, they never went all that well. I am sure it was coincidence.

  8. Ah, I love me some garlic! I just woke Luke up to ask him if he liked it or not. His reply was, ‘not much, why?’

    FOR SHAME. I may have to leave him soon.

    Also, I can’t say I’m a fan of Chaucer. After studying his Canterbury Tales for my English exam, I’m sick of him. :>

  9. I had to seriously reduce my garlic (and onion) intake when R and I connected–he’s one of those who loves many cuisines that use those two freely, but can only eat the dishes in which they’re fully melted and melded and not overpowering or he feels unwell. I choose to consider it a compliment that he doesn’t need garlic for protection from his fear of me as a vampire who will suck out his soul and happiness by loving him forever. And so I just eat my more garlicky and oniony treats when he’s not in town. 😉

  10. Okay, this is the second time I have been back to this post and that is because the first time I just didn’t have time to post my very own response to your garlicky awesomeness. I can almost smell it from the web page! The stinking rose has a stinking fond place in my stinking heart! Muah!

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