I'm not sure how surprised I was when I came across this little treasury of garlic books. Actually, it was a pile of garlic recipe and cook books. But it was a pleasure, nonetheless, to stumble onto a pile of bookish items as these. Last autumn, in the small but every-expanding town of Saugerties, where I have roots that sink into this old Dutch-American earth more than a century and a half, there was the annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. I hadn't been in years, and had a hankering for some garlic specialties. The festival has been going on for more than 25 years, and I do remember some of the earliest gatherings, which didn't have the tens-of-thousands of folks it now attracts.
In fact, in the accompanying photo here (right near the books about garlic), you might be able to spy the "Garlic Queen" (Pat Reppert), who has often called (or "styled") herself as the "Goddess of Garlic." That sounds mighty exotic! Anyhow, we chatted briefly, and she's a very lovely woman, who also happens to be the founder of the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. The first festival was held at her house here in Saugerties in the mid-1980s.
Over the years the festival has grown considerably. I remember one unofficial count being somewhere around 60,000 visitors in one weekend! That means the village of Saugerties swells many, many times its actual size. Lots of traffic.
Perhaps the most curious thing about this festival is how many things are "laced," "concocted," "baked," "cooked" or my favorite--"infused" with garlic. As you can see above: Garlic Chowder.
The general experience at this festival was pleasant, except it was VERY crowded and hard to walk because of this. (There were great blue-grass style bands, puppet-theater, and cooking classes!) The only issue that some might feel offended by was the smell. You see, even as I approached the municipal fields where the festival was held, you could feel the impending garlic cloud floating mouth-high and surrounding you just as you entered. It wouldn't have been so bad if it were the fresh or cooked garlic, but this was the garlic smell of 30,000 people off-gassing their garlic-infused comestibles! Probably the least offensive items were the jellies or honeys (as seen above with many bee friends).
Many vendors drove in to sport their wares and sell garlic-stuff. I had my eyes (and stomach) set on the garlic ice cream. I will admit, I've pined for this delicacy for years, maybe as many as twenty years, since I went to the garlic festival back during my High School days. But let me tell you, this was not something you bring to your grandmother. It was pretty bad. And I like trying all sorts of so-called exotic foods. The problem with this sample, at least, was that the garlic was processed garlic--the kind you get in a big can or bottle that's diced into micro-squares, and then dumped into a vat of vanilla ice-cream.
Folks, I'd say stick to the books. Make your recipes at home. No sense adding to the public garlic cloud, like I did after that ice cream! But if you insist: go to the next garlic festival. It's surely an adventure all its own.