Growing up, I was always proud of my Italian heritage, even though, by the time it got to me, I was only 25%. My mom is one of 8 children, so I have a large family. We are very tight knit. We get together on holidays and birthdays and tell stories, celebrate life, and eat fine Italian food. I was always very proud of how close we are.
Being Italian, garlic is a huge part of the meals. Garlic makes a mean pasta sauce, a sauce that is mastered by my mother and grandmother. This is a sauce I have yet to learn how to make. I am looking at recipes online measuring everything out, while they know the recipes by heart. They have done it a thousand times, with love and care. They have made this sauce for family members, on special occasions, and during celebrations. The sauce is made purely out of garlic and love. Okay, it’s made out of tomatoes, olive oil, basil, etc as well !
Let’s talk about garlic again. I forgot to mention that my grandfather, as a retired carpenter, planted and cared for 16 or more rows of garlic the length of a football field. He sold it on the corner of a street that met with Rt. 20. His garlic stand was called “Joe’s Garlic Corner.” He planted it every year until he was physically unable and forced to give it up. There was a point in time where he had to be talked out of it almost daily. I will always have fond memories of my grandfather and garlic. This man could not sit still. He was one who always needed to be outside working. He was restless. A true hard worker. He always needed to feel useful.
For a few years when I was younger, I helped him with the garlic over the summer. He would plant it every fall and harvest it every summer. I usually helped only with the harvesting, but sometimes I would plant it as well. This earned me a little spending money when I was younger so I could by CD’s from the latest pop musicians. During the years I learned so much about garlic, and my grandfather. I could tell you the many different kinds of garlic that we planted: German Red, German White, Italian Purple, Music(pronounced Mew-sick). Sometimes two or three garlic plants would be planted too close together and grow into one plant. He called these twins and triplets. We always had to tell each other when we found a twin or a triplet. It was fun. He taught me how to pull the garlic out of the ground and clean off the roots and how to clean it up and make it look really nice and ready to be sold.
I learned that while my grandfather was pretty serious, and one of few words, he had the best sense of humor. He would whistle silly songs, make silly, harmless jokes that poked fun at my grandmother. Sometimes he would make silly faces behind her back. I would start laughing and my grandma would say something like “Is he making faces at me,” and joke back with him laughing and saying that he was going to get it! He made me laugh on a daily basis working with him. In a way the garlic represented who he was. The garlic made it through some very harsh weather over the years and remained strong. He faced his share of obstacles and was still a rock that we could all lean on for support. He was a tough man, but loved his family and would do anything for any one of us in a heart beat. I always picture him in a field of garlic. That is where he belongs.
A Picture of my Grandfather and my little cousin Mathew with garlic =)