The Harm of Whole Food Absolutism
July 1, 2022 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Minced, jarred garlic is a good substitute for fresh when you cannot mince it yourself. That this statement is unimaginable to many cooks is representative of a larger, ableist prejudice which keeps many out of the kitchen unnecessarily.
posted by thoroughburro (155 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Minced, jarred garlic is also a good substitute for fresh when you can mince it yourself, but don't feel like bothering and just want to spoon some garlic into the dish and get on with your life already.

You don't have to have a disability to profit from convenience. Let people decide how they want to use and prioritize their own time, already.
posted by foldedfish at 6:36 AM on July 1 [85 favorites]

I've told this story before on metafilter, but on one occasion I caught the tail end of a Jacques Pepin program where he was making pizza, and it looked phenomenal, so I said to myself, "I need to get his recipe for pizza." Because at the point I was usually making my pizzas at home with a Boboli crust.
Imagine my surprise when the first ingredient on the list turned out to be: one pre-packaged Boboli crust.

Food snobs can get stuffed. For a multitude of reasons. Hearing from someone's personal experience that the snobbery ignores a lot of unexamined ableist assumptions just makes the need for food snobs to fuck off even more urgent.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:37 AM on July 1 [47 favorites]

There's no way that I'm doing my twice-per-year prime rib roast without purchasing the largest jar of minced garlic I can find.

Ain't nobody got time for that! (i.e., mincing 40-50 garlic cloves)
posted by kuanes at 6:42 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

I've never minced a garlic in my life, and nobody's ever complained about the garlic tasting too "jarry." This is something that only exists in the minds of people with the endless leisure time to spend hours in the kitchen for fun every day, instead of doing fancy cooking only when they absolutely need to or because it's their literal job.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:48 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]

The culture that surrounds cooking today is one that lends itself well to casual ableism. It’s a culture that prizes specific ways of doing things over others, constantly pitting methods and recipes against one another: French-style scrambled eggs over American; minced garlic instead of pressed, nonstick pans against those made of cast iron, bouillon cubes against broth cartons against homemade stock. It’s a culture desperate to identify serious cooks as opposed to casual ones, assigning value to almost everything we do in the kitchen. Did you stir that with a wooden spoon? Did you cook it in the right kind of oil? Did you use pre-ground pepper? Kosher salt or iodized? In a culture obsessed with the right and wrong way of doing things, any choice you make is likely controversial to some, eliciting either eye rolls or enthusiasm.
This is a really good analysis. Cooking is full of finicky prescriptivist rules. Most of them act as barriers to entry. And most of them are total bullshit, but I challenge you to figure out which of your own sacred cows are apocryphal.
posted by Mayor West at 6:49 AM on July 1 [48 favorites]

I feel this so hard, and it's part of that larger pattern of food media and food snobbery she mentions, which values cooking as performance* over cooking as "a necessary daily chore, constantly repeated, that you get sick of doing." Nobody ever extols artisanal vacuuming, or sniffs with snobbery if you don't hand wash all your dishes. But people who love food enough to write about it rarely acknowledge that for a lot of us, we like eating well and preparing good food, but we are also not putting on a performance every night!

Anyway, I am jarred garlic for life. I'll buy cloves if I need slivers or whole cloves or smashed garlic, but I am absolutely not mincing garlic every single day. I have a life and a job and three children, and I want to feed them good food, but I'm not going to make myself a martyr to the kitchen so they can have freshly-minced garlic when jarred is FINE.

I'm also a big fan of bottled lemon juice and frozen chopped onions. And a chef friend of mine taught me many years ago to choose a grocery store with a salad bar and then if I'm cooking for 1 or 2 and a recipe calls for a few florets of cauliflower, I don't have to buy a whole head and risk it going to waste. (Not such a problem now that I'm cooking for 5, but really really useful when you want fresh ingredients, but only a little bit of them, and you know you otherwise won't use the rest of the vegetable before it goes bad.)

*Cooking as performance but also cooking as a class marker. The "spend hours on a meal, buy only fresh whole ingredients that require skill to prepare" is a huuuuuuuuuuge way for Americans to signal "I am bougie" and "I have taste, money, and free time." And a way to make other people feel lesser-than, lower-class, and poor if they dare use jarred garlic. It is totally fine to enjoy the process of cooking and seeking the "best" way to do it! But the correct answer to, "That must have taken you hours!" is "Yeah, but I really enjoy the process" and not "It's the only way to truly prepare French onion soup! Nothing else can really even be called French onion soup. People just need to commit the time, and do it the authentic way!" Like, take a compliment and stop gatekeeping soup, guy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:50 AM on July 1 [35 favorites]

Team frozen garlic cubes!
Though, I keep meaning to buy whole garlic in order to roast it whole for spreading on things.
posted by Glinn at 6:56 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]

This is a good article. Accessibility is a very good thing, and if you don't need accessibility tools right now? You might need them in future, sometimes when you least expect them! True everywhere, not just in the kitchen.

I have minced garlic and have used jarred garlic, but when I have been working hard for long hours, typing or the like? Ooof. "Convenience" moves closer to "necessity," unless I'm beat enough that it's gotta be takeout, delivery, frozen food, etc.
posted by cupcakeninja at 6:58 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]

Though, I keep meaning to buy whole garlic in order to roast it whole for spreading on things.
This is wonderful to do, but only as An Event wherein garlic is the whole point of the meal.

Jarred garlic is incredible. I can add it to my dish, and then there's nothing stopping me from going "You know what? More garlic." and adding another scoop. I don't have any kind of physical disabilities that keep me from mincing garlic, but with the emotional load that the past.... several years have carried, being able to cut out that one finicky step often means the difference between cooking something good and blowing money on fast food.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:01 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]

Not to get all reverse-snobby or anything, but I found something that takes "fuck all that mincing" to the next level: minced garlic in little toothpaste-type tubes, so you can just squeeze it out.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:02 AM on July 1 [25 favorites]

I'm a big fan of beans that come pre-cooked in a a little box. I just open one up, plop it in a pan, add whatever and instant, healthy lunch.
posted by signal at 7:07 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]

And most of them are total bullshit, but I challenge you to figure out which of your own sacred cows are apocryphal.

This is exactly right, and it's why I name-checked Pepin. Not to be all appeal-to-authority but if Jacques fucking Pepin can go to work for Howard Johnson Hotels and make his pizzas with a prebagged crust, then clearly a lot of the received wisdom about good cooking is pure grade-A pantomime, but I'm damned if know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:11 AM on July 1 [10 favorites]

Great essay.

Jarred ginger is also incredibly useful. And even if (for now) I can slice and grate ginger, I don't have to gaze forlornly upon the shrivelled ginger root I didn't get around to using.

Nobody ever extols artisanal vacuuming

Or bespoke, curated toilet-scrubbing experiences.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:12 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]

This can all also be applied to a lot of the "As Seen On TV!" gadgets that are advertised by able-bodied people overacting. The next time you find yourself rolling your eyes and thinking How lazy are some people..., take a moment to imagine trying to do the action that's being mechanized with only one hand or from a sitting position.
posted by Etrigan at 7:16 AM on July 1 [28 favorites]

I'm glad this is all getting out in the open and we can talk about these things.

I guess it's time to admit something.

Every once in a while, I'll use garlic powder instead of actual garlic.

Feels good to actually say it.
posted by freakazoid at 7:26 AM on July 1 [53 favorites]

When I first got into cooking, I bought into the "there's a RIGHT way" to do things mentality, big time, and so got away from using jarred garlic sometime after graduate school. Now, 20-ish years later, we have a garden and we do grow garlic--it's easy to grow, and we get a LOT of it. Enough to last until the next harvest rolls around. So it's easy, it's there, and it's free...And I absolutely have a jar of store-bought garlic in my fridge. I work, I have kids who are running from activity to activity, and sometimes the thought of having to deal with mincing the damn garlic is enough to put me off making dinner. I don't know if it's wisdom of age or just finally getting tired of having to deal with one more thing, but I'm finally getting over a bunch of those internalized "rules".
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 7:27 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I appreciated this person's overall story, but the beef about snobbery didn't land. If anything the problem is that prepared stuff can be more expensive, and that hurts busy/disabled people.

I have never never had my chops busted over jarred garlic or jarred or pre cut anything if the quality was good. If anyone brought that noise to me they would never be invited back. I would be all like "yeah I bet you never bought ice cream or bone broth or spaghetti sauce or ramen or hummus or pickles you fecking boss." All things we make at home or buy from the store as time permits. GTFO with much of your prepared-food negging.

I totally can enjoy working all from scratch when I can too, and I am grateful for skills passed along to me.

I can't say I am not a snob about all things prepped: but I only care if they are harmful to the body or gross. As we go vegan in the house, I am buying some things prepped that I never used to, but again we are making our own nut milks. [Insert shruggie here]

For a refrehing counterpoint: my teenage son introduced me to Dylan Hollis and he rules so very much.
posted by drowsy at 7:27 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I buy the jarred garlic because it keeps. I don't know how many bulbs of garlic I've thrown out because they've sadly spoiled before I can use them, with just the 2 of us in the house. I love to cook, and I enjoy the experience of cooking, but yeah. I just want to scoop a dollop in there and fucking get on with it. Christoper Ranch is my favorite.
posted by xedrik at 7:28 AM on July 1 [14 favorites]

There is a certain joy that comes from doing things the long way 'round, whether it be handknitting, baking bread from scratch, gardening, or whatever. But there's no virtue in it, other than the joy it gives you. When I was home all day as a stay-at-home parent, I enjoyed baking all our bread. I love the way it tastes so much more than storebought bread. But I don't have the time anymore, and that's fine. Imagine judging everyone who buys bread from a store! But hobbies can get toxic and competetive and gate-keepy. In fact, I've been snobby about people using bread machines before, and I shouldn't have been.

I love interacting with new knitters, because it reminds me that we all start with zero skill and we're all always learning. There's never just one right way to do things.
posted by rikschell at 7:37 AM on July 1 [22 favorites]

This essay should be generalized to "the harm of absolutism" and how snobs of all kinds ruin people's enjoyment of things. It's OK to engage with some leisure activity at the level you feel like. Or in this case, are physically capable of.

That being said, garlic is subtle and if you are able to process garlic yourself it's worth learning all the different flavors you can coax out of it. There's a lot of writing on the topic; this Serious Eats article for instance. Garlic has a specific flavor when cell walls are crushed and that flavor is fleeting. You won't get it with jarred minced garlic. You will still get lots of delicious garlic flavors though and if you want to use minced garlic for whatever reason that's totally fine.

My garlic compromise is to buy peeled whole garlic. The main drawback with it is that it's never very fresh; a whole lot of American garlic is a year+ old, stored under refrigeration. Sometimes I get farmers' market hardneck garlic and go through the extra trouble to peel it myself and it's so, so good.

Another time saving tool is a good garlic press like OXO Good Grips or Rösle. This design is fussy but makes it easy to clean. It only gets you crushed garlic, not chopped or minced. Also requires a fair amount of hand strength so not great for folks with physical limitations like the author talks about. I use a Microplane to grate garlic a lot, too.

Let us all be united in our love of garlic. Thank you for coming to my TEDx talk here at the Gilroy Stockton Garlic Festival.
posted by Nelson at 7:40 AM on July 1 [16 favorites]

Jarred garlic? Garlic powder is your real friend.

(But for the real thing there are some great new style garlic crushers that really work unlike most old school ones)
posted by bifurcated at 7:41 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I'm in food media and I have been and still am definitely team fresh-minced garlic, but I absolutely agree that jarred garlic is just fine and there are lots of good reasons to use it.

For me, encouraging people to mince their own garlic is metonymic for what I think of as a fundamental idea in cooking: that if you take a little more time and pay a little more attention, you'll find joy in the doing, and the results will be a lot better. Too many people cook because they have to, and I do my job because I hope to inspire, occasionally, people to enjoy the process as much as the result.

But this is the internet! So everything gets boiled down to "you're doing it wrong."

It's pretty clear Gabrielle Drolet was already well on her way to enjoying the process when someone (many someones) told her she was doing it wrong, and that's a shame. I want to pass this article around to everyone I know in food media — it's an important reminder that our job is to encourage people to have more joy and fun while cooking, not shut people down.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:42 AM on July 1 [20 favorites]

I absolutely started using jarred garlic after I read a Twitter "confession" from a cook who did the same at home. I also use "shakey cheese" from the green can, not for delicate Parmesan notes but to cut the acid and add umami to pasta. Also, to save money, I got artificial vanilla. It's fine. I would not make it the star ingredient in a delicate cake or ice cream, but if it's just the backing track for your baked goods, as it generally is for me, it's fine.

A single person needs foods that last a long time and won't go off or sprout on the kitchen counter. This is also why I like dried apricots. Well, that and they're like candy.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:50 AM on July 1 [12 favorites]

Every once in a while, I'll use garlic powder instead of actual garlic.

Funnily enough, garlic powder is well respected in food media. It's really just the jarred stuff that's a pariah.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:50 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

To my mind, the issue isn't so much fresh versus jarred garlic as "you must maximize" versus "good enough is still good". Like, I knew this guy once whose taste in bread was so refined that there was only one bakery in all of San Francisco that he felt made good bread, and that seemed like a really tough way to live - he couldn't just enjoy a good sandwich made with good-enough bread because it wasn't from the Only Good Bakery, he couldn't just pick up an adequate take-and-bake loaf and make a quick garlic bread at home because take-and-bake was unacceptable, etc. He maximized his bread experience, but it cut him off from a lot of stuff.

I used jarred garlic until vaccines were available and I was getting to the grocery store regularly. I didn't think it was as good as fresh, honestly. It had a slightly citric quality from the preservative and the flavor was not as strong or complex. If I were in a big hurry or had hurt my hand or otherwise found managing fresh garlic to be too much, I would absolutely go back to jarred garlic, though. Fresh is better, but jarred is good enough, and good enough is good enough for me.

There are a lot of things in life where you're better off if you can just enjoy the good-enough - good-enough sushi, good-enough pizza, good-enough sneakers, good-enough novels. It's great to be able to appreciate the very best, but it's hell to only appreciate the very best.

In so much of American life, we've been taught to feel that if it's not absolutely perfect it's garbage. This public health program benefits 99% of the people who use it, but 1% game the system? Throw it out, get rid of it! I can get a perfectly decent product locally and keep my money in the community? It's not the exact thing I want this very second, better get some poor contractor to deliver something from the Amazon warehouse killing floor!

We're taught to have this attitude that "excellence" is the most important thing and if you don't constantly search for what is "excellent" then...well, no one really has a good explanation here, but clearly you are not excellent enough, all metrics must go up every year, etc etc etc.

Like, why not just good enough? Good enough parenting, good enough dinners, good enough housing, good enough shoes. You enjoy it, it works, it doesn't require destroying the world to bring you the ultimate pizza ingredient or doohickey for your cabinet. Jarred garlic need not be as good as or better than fresh to be the best choice.
posted by Frowner at 7:51 AM on July 1 [55 favorites]

I was team MJG (and powder, tbh) my whole life, without regrets. I spent the early pandemic trying to learn how to make proper Indian food, and all the cookbooks I had told me to use fresh minced. I eventually tried it… and it was a noticeable improvement. I tried it in other dishes, to similar results. I now feel like it’s an easy way for me to amp up the flavour of a dish.

So I’m off the team now, I’m sorry.

The problem with MJG is that it’s good when you first open it, but by the second or third time going back to it it tastes of fridge, and lacks the same punch. If I lived like a king and could open a fresh jar every time I would switch back, but for now I’m spending the extra 5 to mince if I have it.

That said, the idea of criticizing anyone or taking some kind of purist position about the topic is stupid and awful. Food should be about maximizing the joy for all involved in the preparing and eating - and if that means taking a shortcut (or many!) to avoid something you hate (or, like the author, something you can’t do without pain), then that’s the right move.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 7:52 AM on July 1 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry but I'm not sure I believe her story. I had roommates all the way to 30 years old, and not one gave a crap about the ingredients in food as long as it was also for them and free. If you have a roommate complaining about jarred garlic, they are probably complaining about *everything* and are insufferable to be around.

Also, your standard garlic mincer is a terrible appliance. The holes in it are far smaller than jarred minced garlic so you crush with all your might, and then you open it up, and scrape the moderately smashed pieces into your dish.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:56 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

Now that I'm middle-aged, I notice how old certain topics are. My friend Eli Clare, who has cerebral palsy, was writing 30+ years ago when we were in an MFA program together about disability and snobbery. I remember him talking specifically about his bagel slicer, which some person had pooh-poohed as an unnecessary kitchen gadget, because how hard is it to slice a bagel with a decent knife?

I'm on team Whatever Works For You. I believe people who say they can really taste the difference fresh garlic makes, and I have minced or pressed plenty of garlic in my day (and I miss the roasted-garlic fad, when you could get it as an appetizer at almost any restaurant). I'm not sure I have ever had the palate to tell the difference between fresh and jar garlic in a dish, and in my own life I am generally happy to eat something not-quite-as-good if it means being quicker and easier to fix.
posted by Well I never at 8:00 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

Listen, garlic is good. Less than perfect garlic is still fucking delicious.
Frowner has it. I always compare this friend of mine who is a coffee obsessive aficionado and myself, who is a coffee lover. I know what's good, I know what I prefer, but I can enjoy in any form. He cannot. I use an aeropress at home with my local small roaster's fresh beans, but I still drink diner coffee and starbucks. For him that's trash swill.
Weirdly off topic I feel like this sense less than perfect = trash in American culture is why we have a dearth of group singing activities. If you aren't winning American idol you can't open your mouth to sing in public, people seem to think.
Anyway everyone, join me around the piano, have some leftover soy ginger chicken from last night I made with jarred garlic and frozen ginger.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 8:01 AM on July 1 [16 favorites]

I think if you like to cook at all, you have things you think of as "reasonable" shortcuts and things you'd rather die than skimp on. I'm willing to grate a lot of cheese to get good flavor (and absence of cellulose), and I'd much rather keep some lemons on the counter than in a squeezy juice bottle in the fridge (lemons keep forever anyway), but....yeah I'm not mincing garlic. It's a miserable business. The jarred stuff isn't as strong, but you can just...add more. It's fine.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:03 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

A note to prevent a potential derail: nobody has suggested there isn’t a difference between jarred and fresh garlic. The issue is the amount of focus and priority placed on that difference.
posted by thoroughburro at 8:05 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

There’s a reason I like J Kenji Lopez-Alt and Jacques Pepin. While both of them can prepare fabulous dishes, neither one is precious about the ingredients used.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 8:06 AM on July 1 [12 favorites]

The only ingredient I avoid is absolutism. It just tastes like soap to me.
posted by a complicated history at 8:09 AM on July 1 [27 favorites]

Have I woken up in bizarro world? Pre-minced garlic in a jar tastes nothing like fresh minced garlic. Peeling garlic, using, rinsing a garlic press: easy, straightforward tasks.
posted by Flashman at 8:10 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]

What'd you think of the article, Flashman?
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on July 1 [53 favorites]

Pre-minced garlic in a jar tastes nothing like fresh minced garlic

The Iranian yogurt is not the issue here.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:13 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]

Garlic - as well as just about anything where there are options available - does not exist on some sort of linear continuum in which one end is "bad/wrong" and the other is "perfect/right", and if you're somewhere in between you're failing at being "perfect ". What if the jarred garlic is just fine and not a substitute? What if you bought garlic at the store (a store?? Like, not even a farmer's market?) and didn't *gasp* grow it yourself because don't you care about the purest most instagrammable garlic experience? Why do you hate garlic?

The idea that there is just one right way to do a thing and if you aren't 100% on board with it then you may as well pound sand - it's stupid and wearisome. Enjoy the nuance and variety in life. Don't shame others for having different ways. There are lots of answers to lots of different situations and questions. Keep an open mind and don't be a jerk. Try the MJG, you might like it! Or don't, and that's ok too.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:14 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I dunno... On one hand, I know what she is talking about, When I was young, my group of friends were intolerable food snobs, who definitely spent time discussing wether the spoon one used for making mayonnaise had to be made from olive-wood or could be made from any fruit tree. It happened, I was there. And there was an in-group and everyone else was an out-group.
Except they weren't really. When my kids were young, I made a bastardized Thai curry several times a week, with bottled curry paste, frozen veg mix and canned coconut milk, or I made pasta with pesto from a jar, and my friends were all you can't do that!!! And I'd be, watch me. They didn't stop calling or coming over for dinner. Because they were my real life friends. They didn't call for my extinction, because friends don't do that in real life. They learnt from it, and some of them even began using tomatoes from a tin when they made ragù.
So what I think is that this is more about online culture than ableism, though I can see how a person who is confined to a smaller physical space is more vulnerable to online bullying than someone who can meet up with real friends several times a week.

If anything, there is clearly a movement that is about using everyday products and doing everyday cooking. Kenji and Dan from ATK using MSG in a video, Ferran Adrian using potato chips in a tortilla, NOMA opening a burger bar.

I could totally taste the difference between garlic from a jar, freshly minced garlic and fresh garlic before COVID, and I am food snob, no doubt. But I would never think to even comment if a friend of mine used the jarred stuff, let alone judge.
posted by mumimor at 8:16 AM on July 1 [9 favorites]

>>I caught the tail end of a Jacques Pepin program where he was making pizza, and it looked phenomenal, so I said to myself, "I need to get his recipe for pizza."
Jacque Pepin is the fucking best, and the exact antidote to the food snobbery mentality.

Another example is his seafood chowder recipe which I've made so many times I know it by heart: yes, it is based on fresh vegetables and fish, but also relies on clam juice from a jar and dried potato flakes, the type that you can pick up for $2/bag, or double that if you want the fancy kind.

As Jacques says here: "It's an easy way of doing it, and it works beautifully".
posted by jeremias at 8:19 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]

So what I think is that this is more about online culture than ableism

It's about ableism and classism in (predominantly bougie, online, I guess) food culture. It's about the tendency of people (let's be honest: dudes, mostly) to make everything into a hobby and to make every hobby into a competition. It's about the YouTube algorithm endlessly delivering videos with thumbnails of some jagoff pulling a face with titles like FOOD MYTHS DESTROYED that posit there's only one way to cook and eat (until next week's video).

I know I'm getting old because I am so, so sick of this shit.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:31 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

I keep "garlic and herb" stock cubes to hand because I crumble half a cube or so into tomato sauces. Tastes good to me! I also stole a trick linked on here once, where you just cut an onion in half, leave it in the sauce till the end and then get rid of it (Chopping onions makes me cry rivers, I can't be even be in the kitchen if someone is frying or chopping onions, and I don't like the texture anyway).

But I don't like *strong* garlic flavours, generally, so I'm probably some kind of food heathen anyway.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:37 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I can absolutely taste the difference between jarred garlic and fresh garlic in most contexts. I wouldn't use jarred garlic. For that matter, I haven't had a not-from-scratch tomato sauce in over 30 years. But you know what? Who caaaaaaaares? If someone wants or has to stir jarred garlic into a pot of Prego, that's none of my business. People have different priorities and constraints and preferences. Nixtamalizing dried corn and grinding it into fresh masa definitely results in better corn tortillas than buying ones that were made in a factory. Nope. Not doing that.

A lot of this stuff has come home to me as a result of a good friend who is a wonderful cook that likes cooking "high end restaurant style" food in his expansive kitchen. But then he had a stroke. Then he had another one. And now he doesn't have very good use of his dominant hand, which makes a lot of cooking tasks (among many other things) difficult-to-impossible. So now he does as many things as he can do and employs workarounds for others, some of which means buying prepared ingredients that he would have bought fresh before the stroke. The food's still good. Not quite the same, but still really good. Meanwhile, he's still cooking. If using jarred garlic (etc.) is the difference between making that whatever-it-is largely yourself versus eating an entirely premade product, I think it's great. And, yanno, there is nothing wrong with Bisquick.
posted by slkinsey at 8:37 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

Even at such points, I never considered buying jarred garlic. I pushed through the pain, no matter how excruciating. And, on especially bad days, I omitted the ingredient altogether, my food missing a certain edge I’d grown to love.

This almost brought tears to my eyes. I also suffer from an RSI (although less severe than the author's situation) and I have done this exact thing too. I still don't regularly buy plain minced garlic, but have often reached for a jar of garlic-heavy taberu rayu when I'm not feeling up to the task of mincing.

thanks for the post, thoroughburro. it's an important and valuable essay
posted by okonomichiyaki at 8:38 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]

I think the article is fine and raises good points about ableism and very lesser extent classism. Any kind of absolutism, whether it is fresh only or jarred only camps, is pretty obnoxious and I find both are used as class signifiers especially among Americans.

I don't identify as a food snob personally but I am, for better or worse, a political eater - I don't use jarred garlic because a lot of the stuff I've seen available comes from somewhere very far away and I have concerns about the environmental impact & sustainability of this. So for me the couple minutes of chopping my cheaper locally sourced garlic or the seconds it takes in pulverizing it in some gadget (Bourdain be damned) is worth it. If you don't? That's fine. No one should be shamed for their food choices because we all have to make choices that work for us.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:40 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

There are two main types of garlic - hardneck and softneck, with several sub-varieties - see here and here where these just scratch the surface on sub-sub-varieties) with the latter most commonly seen braided. Each link provided tends to show what they have rather than all varieties. Filaree Farms has an interesting organic selection but, again, only provides information re what they have. Within each of these types there are thousands of sub-varieties and often one variety is so similar to another that it is hard to determine what exactly is the difference. NOTE: Elephant Garlic is NOT a garlic, it is a variety of leek...

As someone who (is lucky enough to be able to) grow their own garlic (eight different varieties and around 600 bulbs), I recommend anyone who has the smallest of pieces of ground to grow them. I have even grown them in pots on a balcony. They are quite simply easy to grow. Plant in November (in the North) and forget about them. Harder the freeze, 99% of the time they are fine.

Back to the main topic. I will say a couple of things. I too, after many years of mouse usage, have severe RSI.

1. The typically, exceedingly bland, garlic that is available in America is a silver-skin variety grown in China, California, and Mexico. It is popular with retailers due to its uniform size, stability as a fresh crop, and eye appeal to the consumer. Sadly, it is normally shipped to stores along with all the other produce which needs to be refrigerated. Garlic, like tomatoes, should never be refrigerated! The oils within will alter when they are placed out in a regular stores temperature. This results in the usage of a few cloves making you walk around smelling like a garlic factory.

2. I rarely peel garlic. I simply cut off the root end, drop a bunch into a food processor and away you go. Where visual appeal is important, there are silicone tubes for peeling easily and/or many YouTube videos on other ways to peel them. I use a food cutting press to chop them or one of those herb 'rockers' to fine chop..

3. I batch process in the blender and freeze in ice cube trays (or flat between parchment paper and foil).
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:41 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry but I'm not sure I believe her story. I had roommates all the way to 30 years old, and not one gave a crap about the ingredients in food as long as it was also for them and free. If you have a roommate complaining about jarred garlic, they are probably complaining about *everything* and are insufferable to be around.

I dunno. I'm older than this writer and my last roommate was at age 39 (roughly), but I have definitely been shamed by friends (and family) for food stuff. Never in the intentional "OMG, so gross you're doing it wrong" but like "Hey, you know this will taste much better and all chefs agree etc" I mention this because, as a child that grew up in a fresh garlic household with a mother that mostly used a garlic press, I was routinely given a hard time for using the garlic press until I finally submitted and just started slicing and mincing by hand.

PS: I love garlic. I peel and chop garlic pretty much every day for some thing or another. But I fucking hate peeling and chopping garlic. Onions on the other hand? Perversely I love chopping onions.

PPS: It is possible that all the people I love are insufferable. I'm definitely insufferable much of the time.
posted by thivaia at 8:42 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

Tangential to the topic, but on reading mumimor's post above, I'm reminded of how "food snobs" are also often substantially wrong. For example, as a generality people in Thailand use canned curry pastes. Ain't nobody got time for that. As a project, some friends and I spent an entire afternoon pounding out some curry pastes in a mortar entirely from scratch. We were expecting it to be revelatory. Reader, it was not revelatory. Same thing with canned versus fresh tomatoes for ragù, in which case canned is definitely the way to go (although if you want to use fresh, go with your chosen deity). Most Moroccan people make tajines in the pressure cooker rather than using an unglazed clay tajine over a charcoal brazier for hours and hours. And so on.
posted by slkinsey at 8:50 AM on July 1 [17 favorites]

"It seems the aesthetics of being a good cook by using fresh ingredients have always triumphed over convenience."

I'm not sure the author has ever been in a grocery store.

And just because we are giving her a deserved pass on jarred garlic doesn't mean we are extending the courtesy to you.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:52 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

So what I think is that this is more about online culture than ableism

Who can calculate the exact proportion of online culture to ableism? But one aspect of this is the norming power of the internet and the way that people move in different internet circles even more than they move in different social circles. Something can rapidly become a truism in one circle while never ever coming up in another, so of course one person hears it all the time and another never, ever encounters it.

Further, the norming power of the internet is such that people who have never tried and would normally never have an opinion about a thing have one dropped ready-made into their laps. The internet pushes people far more than other more remote media to feel strongly about things that they do not experience and do not affect them.

Like, I'd say that I'm naturally a bit of a snob - but only a bit! If you really asked me whether jarred garlic or fresh was better, or whether dark chocolate was better than milk, or any one of a number of culinary truisms, I would probably give the snob answer....but I wouldn't really feel it and I wouldn't care much about it. It might be a fun stupid bar argument to debate what the best chocolate is, but that's all it would be - a fun stupid thing that you can have a strong opinion on because it doesn't matter.

The internet pushes people to go from "well I guess if I really thought about it but I never considered it until now since it does not affect me in any way" to having a very strong opinion and feeling that people with other opinions are wrong and bad. This happens with a speed, a reach and an intensity absent in other, slower media even though it is not a totally new process.
posted by Frowner at 8:53 AM on July 1 [10 favorites]

IndelibleUnderpants, do you mean that you leave (some of) the papery parts on the garlic and they go in the final food? Is this specifically for the case where you're blending the garlic? I know that when it comes to chopped onions any "more papery piece" that ends up in the served dish can be distasteful for me, and (though I guess I've never actually noticed garlic paper in my food) I have always assumed the same would be the case with garlic paper.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:53 AM on July 1

Let me tell you about crunchy delicious pickled garlic cloves.

You are in one of two positions right now:

1. You have eaten them and you don't need me.
2. You have never eaten them, a. because you've never even seen them or b. because oh god yuck a whole clove of garlic in my mouth?

If you are 2a, find some. If you are 2b, just do it.

It is amazing.
posted by chavenet at 8:55 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

In my home we have garlic and "jarlic." I think of them as largely interchangeable but separate ingredients. If garlic is going to be the star of the dish, then I will put forth the effort to peel it and slice it or mince it or whatever. For everything else, there's jarlic.

It's pretty rare that I think it's worth the effort.
posted by rouftop at 9:00 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

Tangential to the topic, but on reading mumimor's post above, I'm reminded of how "food snobs" are also often substantially wrong. For example, as a generality people in Thailand use canned curry pastes. Ain't nobody got time for that. As a project, some friends and I spent an entire afternoon pounding out some curry pastes in a mortar entirely from scratch. We were expecting it to be revelatory. Reader, it was not revelatory. Same thing with canned versus fresh tomatoes for ragù, in which case canned is definitely the way to go (although if you want to use fresh, go with your chosen deity). Most Moroccan people make tajines in the pressure cooker rather than using an unglazed clay tajine over a charcoal brazier for hours and hours. And so on.
posted by slkinsey at 8:50 AM on July 1

These are examples of truths. Another truth, jarred garlic is gross. It's acceptable to use only of you have no other option. have a disability
posted by Keith Talent at 9:00 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I have a very beat-up copy of Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook, which is kind of like one of those "favorite recipes from our school" cookbooks a school's PTA will compile for a fundraiser, but, like, for the entire city of New York circa 1989-ish; it's a lot of different people from all walks of life contributing their own recipes for stuff. In the introduction, O'Neill writes about this, and how with New Yorkers the food snobbery doesn't always manifest as "you have to chop the garlic by HAND, you heathen"; you'll find plenty of jarred or canned stuff in the recipes. The difference is that with New York you're likely to find something like "jarred garlic is fine, but ONLY if you get the kind made in-house at Schmulke Bernstein's Pantry on 78th and Madison" or something like that.

She also devotes an internal essay to the myriad chicken soup recipes, and how and why chicken soup has become such an iconic thing in New York delis and households, and marvelling that it's something nigh unto universal. And at the end of the essay, she has a fun note:
But whether they come from Asia, Africa, or Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, chicken soup experts agree about one thing. It's a dirty little chicken soup secret that's passed from mother to daughter. "If you tell anybody, I will deny knowing you," threatened a prominent Manhattan soup-maker.

(Add a quarter of a chicken bouillon cube, a dash of chicken base, or a splash of commercially made chicken soup to the pot for perfect chicken soup. ....Shhh.)
I do still try to do garlic by hand usually, but I've got the time and the means. And there may be those who are torn between wanting the convenience of the jar, but also the freshness and "I know it's garlic and not garlic-plus-whatever-chemicals" of chopping-by-hand. And there's a way to have it both ways, which I'll probably be trying soon - when you have a free ten minutes or so, get a couple heads of garlic, peel all the cloves and throw them in a food processor, and then blitz everything. (Or, fuck it, just get the pre-peeled cloves that you can sometimes see in supermarkets and use that.) Then stuff the now chopped-up garlic into the holes in an ice cube tray, freeze it all, and then pop the cubes out once frozen and throw them into a freezer baggie. Then when you need minced garlic you can just reach for a frozen cube of it. (It's like the frozen garlic suggested above, only it's a DIY version.) I've also seen suggested that you throw in some peeled fresh ginger as well, if you do a lot of stir fries - that way the garlic and ginger is right there together in the cube and you can just chuck that into your wok or whatever and be done with it.

But yeah - however you wanna do it, pick your battles and pick what you wanna splurge or take time on. After all, we're talking about something that will be poo within 8 hours of your eating it anyway so why get fussed.

(And seconding the recommendation for B. Dylan Hollis above, that dude is delightful.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I cook alllllllll the time and it takes me no time at all to smash a clove of garlic with the side of my knife, cut off the end, pull off the tip, and mince it. I don't even think about it. It's really easy. But I didn't use to cook that much and I do remember certain things (chopping and de-seeding a pepper, faffing around with fresh herbs, and yeah, peeling and mincing garlic) feeling like big fiddly pains in the ass. If I'm cooking something with butternut squash, you better believe I'm buying the pre-cut kind at the store because I'm a weakling and hacking into a whole squash is too much work. There's no shame in taking shortcuts for the steps that you don't find easy and don't enjoy. How is this even up for debate?
posted by cakelite at 9:05 AM on July 1

The_Vegetables: the roommate, in the author's recollection, did not say a single word of complaint about the author's approach; she made a face (possibly without meaning to) and stepped away, and the author read criticism in that and took it to heart -- compounded by the jar-bashing prevalent online.
“You use the pre-minced stuff?”

“Yeah,” I said.

She wrinkled her nose and receded.
I was, at college age, very bad at reading others' body language or quiet subtextual implications,* so if I had been in her shoes I probably would have shouted "Hey [name]!" till she came back and then asked her "Is there something wrong with using the pre-minced garlic?" assuming that she knew something I didn't, that she was maybe going to help prevent me from making a mistake.

Nelson: thank you for alerting me to the garlic festival maelstrom!!! I enjoyed the Gilroy Garlic Festival ages ago and remember the garlic ice cream in particular as being really tasty and novel. Stockton is also where the Asparagus Festival happens, for those who want to track northern California food-specific fests.

* I'm now only mediocre at this.
posted by brainwane at 9:09 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

It was an even greater improvement in my quality of life when the Jar Garlic (and ginger!) started coming in squeezable bottles. The packaging may be environmentally inferior, but the sonic experience is far superior. SPLORT.
posted by 3j0hn at 9:11 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

BTW people who have used dried pre-minced garlic from Penzeys, they offer both "Garlic minced" and "Penzeys Minced Garlic" and I welcome your recommendations on when to use one versus the other.
posted by brainwane at 9:13 AM on July 1

IndelibleUnderpants, do you mean that you leave (some of) the papery parts on the garlic and they go in the final food?b

I do sometimes. It's a bit of a bother, but not that big a deal, kind of in the neighborhood of finding a bone in a piece of fish. It happens, even in fancy restaurants.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:14 AM on July 1

Oh hey, PS for any new B. Dylan Hollis fans - he's got some stuff on Youtube, but the majority of it is on Tiktok.

And to give a bit more info - Hollis is an dude into vintage and retro stuff who took up baking as a hobby during the pandemic. He now makes these Tiktok videos of himself trying out some of the more wacked-out recipes he finds in cookbooks from the 20th Century, and reacting to them.

Some of the stuff is dreadful, some is surprisingly good. HE is goofy as all hell.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

But I did read that 80 percent of garlic in a jar...peeled or minced...comes from China.Not an issue in itself, but there was mention of forced labor. So that would be a no from me.
posted by Czjewel at 9:18 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

In my home we have garlic and "jarlic." I think of them as largely interchangeable but separate ingredients. If

This is how I think of the various garlic form factors.
I use both garlic powder and minced garlic in my spaghetti sauce, so sometimes they're complimentary components.

I don't really keep the jarred stuff around anymore, sometimes the taste and texture were a bit off with whatever brand was available to me a while ago, so I got out of the habit of getting it. When it wasn't off the taste was still different from fresh in some applications, but not usually in a bad way to me.

I think the point about "maximizers" above is relevant. Some people maximize for the taste alone, other's for the whole process (taste balanced against effort). Sometimes it seems like taste maximizers forget that other people's taste may be different than theirs, or even vary day to day. Like, some days I legitimately don't want fried potatoes, I want it baked.
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:22 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

do you mean that you leave (some of) the papery parts on the garlic

if you are going to fry the garlic with other things, leaving the skin on the cloves is one way to make that work, because that way the garlic won't burn. the other way is to add the garlic in later in the preparation, because it cooks/burns really fast. after it's cooked / fried it separates easily from the skin.
posted by chavenet at 9:22 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

And just because we are giving her a deserved pass on jarred garlic doesn't mean we are extending the courtesy to you.

Wow, that's snotty.
posted by tavella at 9:25 AM on July 1 [21 favorites]

I can smell the difference between fresh vs jar garlic right when it starts sauteing. But I honestly can't taste the difference in the finished dish and I will happily continue use the jarred stuff most of the time.

Regardless, no one should feel shame about how they cook, whether it is from preference (many people prefer the green-parmesan-in-a-can, for example) or because it is physically or mentally necessary (hand strength, say).
posted by Dip Flash at 9:30 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I don't mind the mincing part so much; it's the peeling that drives me batty.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:33 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

Made up a g(arlic)uy to get mad at

(my own laziness / reward sits on microplaning whole cloves, the skin - or enough of it at least - doesn't grate through. magic. I literally don't care what anyone else uses)
posted by ominous_paws at 9:49 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

It never fails to amaze me how tribal and judgmental people will get over anything. Convenience foods, tools, which particularly creed you subscribe to, what's the proper way to be vegetarian, environmentally conscious, true scotsman, etc.

I dislike pre-minced garlic, but when the great garlic shortage of 2020 hit, you bet your sweet bippy I got a big damn jar of minced garlic to hold onto for dear life.

In the brewing world, where I do a lot of waffling around, it's amazing to see what people will draw the line on. IPA/anti-IPA, Hazy IPA/Clear IPA, Fruit Puree and Other Adjuncts/"Real Beer Ingredients", Lager/Ale, Traditional 40+day lager schedules vs. modified Narziss fermentaiton schedules. All of these have been massive arguments I've seen in various worlds of discussion.

And the big one - at the homebrew level - extract vs. all-grain. Talk about a convenience product! The scandal if you tell people that you can make great beer with extract. (Never mind that 90% of the impactful work of brewing is on the fermentation side)

Is it all part and parcel of the great empathy deficit that's reared it's head in such a visible and ugly way over the past few decades? (not that this sort of judgmental crap hasn't been around forever, it's just feels way more effectively clickbaity and ragey today.)

(And if my position isn't clear - you do you when it comes to what makes you happy/satisfied and doesn't harm others)
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:55 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]

I don't mind the mincing part so much; it's the peeling that drives me batty.

Chop each of the hard ends off the clove, then gently crush it with the flat of the knife. The peel will come right off.

It's extremely important, when talking about food, to be aware that the ingredients you have available to you are a huge part of how the meal turns out. I think one of the reasons for the snobbery (putting aside the most obvious reason, that being class) is that American cooking went through a period where highly processed store-bought foods became star ingredients of dishes; Miracle Whip and the like, the kind of thing that you can't make at home because it involves horrifying industrial chemicals. But also the quality of some of these pre-prepared conveniences can vary wildly between countries and even parts of countries, so in some ingredients there's a significant taste difference thanks to preservatives that aren't used in other countries.

People are very quick to assume their experience is universal, when for food, it's anything but. (This is why "is a hot dog a sandwich" is so contentious - we literally have different conceptions of the boundaries of 'sandwich' depending on where we're from.)
posted by Merus at 10:08 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]

Chop each of the hard ends off the clove, then gently crush it with the flat of the knife. The peel will come right off.

posted by ominous_paws at 10:10 AM on July 1 [12 favorites]


there's favourites at stake, do you really think I'd lie at a time like this
posted by Merus at 10:16 AM on July 1 [10 favorites]

I think this has come up once before, and the thing seems to be that there's a difference between the softneck garlic I usually see in the grocery store (that doesn't peel terribly easy despite de-ending and crushing) and the hardneck variety that the easy-peeler was referring to.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:23 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

On the other side of the argument, jarred garlic and other convenience packaging creates a lot of packaging waste.
posted by subdee at 10:28 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I think the comparative tastiness of different preparations of garlic (or any other culinary thing) is irrespective to people's right to accommodate themselves with dignity and without judgment. Personally, to me, jarred garlic does not taste as good as fresh. If chopping fresh garlic caused me physical pain, would I use jarred? Hell yes! I do not live my entire life in thrall to garlic quality and neither should you. I guess to me this type of stuff simply does not carry moral connotation so I don't see the need to "justify" the accommodation by pretending that all ways of doing things are equally tasty (to me); but I also understand why the pervasive environment of ableism puts people on the defensive in a certain way.
posted by dusty potato at 10:29 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I also think that in the US, at least, convenience already reigns supreme and doesn't really need defenders.
posted by subdee at 10:30 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I have a different accessibility problem, ie that a bunch of local people I cook for have unusual and non-overlapping food intolerances. Almost everything preminced is out because of one of its oils or ?preservatives?, ditto a large large proportion of some of the things "everybody buys" somewhere above. So I cook a lot from scratch but am rooting for a middle path, of purism in ingredients and options in preparation.

as noted above, with fresh pre peeled garlic this currently means it comes from China, which is probably unacceptable to our household for a bunch of other reasons.
posted by clew at 10:30 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

You are in one of two positions right now:

1. You have eaten [pickled garlic cloves] and you don't need me.
2. You have never eaten them, a. because you've never even seen them or b. because oh god yuck a whole clove of garlic in my mouth?

Not sure if this is 2c or 3, but I've had big olives that were cored/depitted and had a whole clove of garlic inserted in them, and that's how I eat olives now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:32 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

clew, that is actually how I became a foodie. I couldn't eat anything processed because of allergies, so I had to learn how to cook in order to eat, and after a while it became interesting. And after a little longer, I had practiced cooking so much that it really wasn't a problem anymore. Once I hated prepping vegetables, now I don't think about it at all.
posted by mumimor at 10:45 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

In terms of nominally fresh ingredients that have been processed for convenience, garlic has some particular problems. As soon as the garlic is cut, the enzymes and sulfur-containing compounds start to oxidize and react with one another. After not too long it develops a fairly pronounced characteristic skunky "garlic that was cut up too long ago" flavor. Take a fresh clove of garlic, mince it up and let it sit out for an hour or so. Then mince up another fresh clove and smell both. It's pretty obvious. Even peeled garlic starts to develop a hint of this after a few days. Similar things happen with onions if they are are left out too long after being cut up (this is one reason to rinse cut onions and/or soak them in water if you're not going to use them right away). There's really no way for jarred garlic not to have this flavor, and for me anyway that's what I find objectionable about it. Compounding this issue is the fact that jarred garlic usually contains an acid (citric and/or phosphoric usually) to lower the pH and is usually pasteurized, both for food-safety and shelf-stabilization reasons. It also often contains low-quality oil. And so on. It's pretty gross to me, but then again there are things I like that are pretty gross to others. I don't see what anyone hopes to accomplish by being shitty about it in any event--especially towards someone who may be using jarred garlic because of a physical issue.
posted by slkinsey at 10:52 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

On the other side of the argument, jarred garlic and other convenience packaging creates a lot of packaging waste.
posted by subdee

This is mentioned in the article - specifically as one way to shame people who need to buy jarred garlic and pre-sliced vegetables, etc.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:13 AM on July 1 [11 favorites]

How do we shame people who post their hot takes here without having read the article and just reinforce the shitty ableism the article is written against?
posted by Nelson at 11:23 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]

Speaking only for myself, I'm fine with minced garlic in a jar, but crushed garlic doesn't taste as good as chopped.

And I'm another one who hates peeling garlic.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:30 AM on July 1 doesn't matter which you prefer! The article is about abelism.

There are no "sides" of an argument about which is better, jarred garlic or fresh.

What is even happening
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:31 AM on July 1 [18 favorites] doesn't matter which you prefer! The article is about abelism.

And it is a really good article, well worth reading, despite all of us having strongly-held opinions on garlic. The contrast between the nuanced point the article is making and some of the comments above is either funny or sad, depending on your perspective.

One of my favorite parts in the piece:

In a culture obsessed with the right and wrong way of doing things, any choice you make is likely controversial to some, eliciting either eye rolls or enthusiasm.

Often, the wrong choice is the easier (read: more accessible) one—and making it is a fatal flaw. These aren’t things to try to avoid when you can. They’re things you should never do, even though many of us don’t have a choice. This lack of nuance is what made me believe using accessibility tools might make me a bad cook, pushing me to hurt myself even when cooking alone.

None of this is intentional. People aren’t thinking about disabled cooks when they turn their noses up at pre-minced garlic or pre-ground pepper or whatever else. That’s part of the problem, though: dismissing ingredients and disparaging anyone who uses them means not thinking of who, exactly, that might be. In reality, it doesn’t take much critical thinking to get there.

posted by Dip Flash at 11:37 AM on July 1 [9 favorites]

Am I the only one who heard garlic in oil sometimes has botulism? Because I'd love to embrace pre minced garlic.
posted by sepviva at 11:58 AM on July 1

" jarred garlic and other convenience packaging creates a lot of packaging waste."

Not if you buy it by the quart!

Honestly the most shocking part of this thread is the number of you who are willing to use and then clean your food processor for anything short of a festival meal. I will do almost anything to avoid having to clean a food processor, including just, like, not making that recipe ever again. Apparently some of you do not rank "cleaning the food processor" up there with "getting a root canal without anesthesia"! WHO KNEW???
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:02 PM on July 1 [18 favorites]

So I keep thinking about this and maybe should read the other comments more carefully but... Is this really an ableist issue or is it just "I don't want jerks to make me feel bad?" Or are they the same thing?

In my head, ableism would be more like "grocery stores shouldn't carry jarred garlic." (See: "plastic straws should be illegal" which definitely is ableist.) But what I'm reading is "jerks make me feel uncool for using convenient ingredients" and, like, is avoiding those jerks not an option? Is this not just a coming-of-age, "hey I finally figured out that I don't have to follow social pressure to be cool" story? Or am I missing something?
posted by rouftop at 12:19 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Making people feel bad for using accessible ingredients for them is absolutely abelist.

Who can avoid jerks on the internet?
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:21 PM on July 1 [11 favorites]

Who can avoid jerks on the internet?

I mean, nobody can, but that goes for pretty much any topic.
posted by rouftop at 12:27 PM on July 1

Professional kitchen take:

We had a menu that used piles and piles of minced garlic every day. Liters of the stuff.

While we didn't buy minced and jarred garlic we definitely bought pre-peeled garlic by the bag because we definitely don't have time for peeling pounds and pounds of garlic bulbs and almost no kitchen does. It's not just you, peeling garlic sucks and I have yet to see any trick that works for peeling garlic that isn't an industrial garlic processing machine. The closest kitchen hack I've seen is those weird little rubber tubes where you can put a few cloves in at a time and roll it around and most but not all of the peel will come off.

When the Chef was doing menu and firing orders training we were running through all of the prep and mise en place and when we got to the garlic prep she initially wanted it all minced by hand with a knife... which is fine if you have insanely good and fast knife skills or doing just a dish or two or home kitchen scale cooking, but it takes fucking forever even if you have average commercial kitchen knife skills.

When we got to the mincing garlic part of the prep I just looked at her funny, said something like "we have better tools for this" and I went and got the turbochef out off the pantry, set it up and dumped like 8 cups of peeled cloves into it. A few pulses later we had a few of liters of perfectly minced garlic, and the turbochef parts were already in the dishwasher before she was done mincing a handful of cloves.

She was dubious at first because she wanted a very specific mince size but then she realized using the turbo/robo could do that and it was perfectly acceptable and saved a whole lot of time and repetitive stress injuries.

She replied with something like "Oh, yeah, never mind. Ignore me. Let's do it that way. That way is much better."

We have a basic food processor like that here at the home kitchen and I use it all the time for all kinds of things just with the simple two blade spinner. Pie crusts, chopping nuts for a baked good, making mirepoix, mincing garlic. Last weekend I made meatloaf and used it for the mirepoix mix I was adding to the meatloaf. The trick is to use it in stages for different ingredients, because things like carrots, onions and celery all have different sizes and thicknesses and require more or less pulsing and cutting for each vegetable, so you just do one ingredient at a time then mix them up for a mirepoix blend.

We even occasionally used minced jarred garlic when we couldn't get peeled cloves from the delivery services or the cash and carry. And it's fine, especially when you're going to use the whole jar that day. We avoid using MJG mainly because it's more expensive per pound and, yes, it's not quite as fresh or aromatic when it's been pre-minced and shipped on a truck.

Where MJG mostly falls flat is when it takes you weeks or months to go through a jar and it starts to smell like fridge.

Anyway, I find that there's a whole lot of ableist stuff like this even in commercial kitchens and cooking culture absolutism that tend to favor knife skills and tedious manual labor over using perfectly acceptable tools for the job.

This is one of the things that always bugged me about Alton Brown and his war on "unitaskers" and how often he vastly overcomplicated some super basic recipes. Even really simple things like a steak or a grilled cheese sandwich. That's great, Alton, you just made like 10x the dishes to clean up or used half a roll of aluminum foil in increasingly convoluted ways that were totally unnecessary. You could have saved all that aluminum foil just by flipping a second hot cast iron pan upside down over the first one like a lid to get that quarter pound of thick sliced cheese in your grilled cheese sandwich to melt before the bread charred. You know, like they do in commercial kitchens.

And I don't know what the hell you're doing with those flower pots and bricks or whatever trying to cook a basic ribeye steak, but I'm just going to throw this frozen steak in an uncovered cast iron pan in the oven set to about 180 for an hour, go smoke a bowl, and then finish it off with a sear on the stove with some butter, salt and pepper with basically no effort at all and it's going to come out absolutely perfect.
posted by loquacious at 12:27 PM on July 1 [13 favorites]

Oh loquacious, you remind me of a couple things.
One is, the good reason Jamie Oliver is a great inspiration for home cooks in spite of everything, is that he uses the food processor for everything that needs chopping. You won't see him demonstrating his knife skills, though he no doubt has them.
Another is that I still have a mini processor I bought when my first born (now 29) was newborn. I have bought replacements for it twice, but never threw it out because that machine is awesome, and the more fancy replacements are lounging in the drawer. If I came to a time in life where I couldn't mince garlic, my mini-Braun would be there for me. All (relevant) parts go in the dishwasher, I haven't once washed it up by hand. It chops nuts, garlic, onion, carrot and everything else like it was made yesterday. It has a big brother that can handle all the vegs for a ragù in seconds, and then also cut up all the potatoes for a gratin or something in a few minutes. Trust the machines.
posted by mumimor at 12:46 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is 2c or 3, but I've had big olives that were cored/depitted and had a whole clove of garlic inserted in them, and that's how I eat olives now.

It just means you were in Spain or Portugal.
Also, I sometimes buy whole pitted olives with an honest to god chili pepper stuffed into them.
So good, but pricy
posted by chavenet at 12:56 PM on July 1

Right, rouftop. Also, TV cooking shows, if you are at all a fan. So...don't see why it wouldn't be a thing that comes up all the time.

Is this not just a coming-of-age, "hey I finally figured out that I don't have to follow social pressure to be cool" story?

It's more of a, "you're not cooking well or like a person should because you don't use these exact ingredients." Which is insulting and pretty elitist, and often, abelist.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:17 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I love this article, and this thread. I have been a cook and a chef for 30 years, and the ableism, racism, and Puritanism in food culture make me so sad. I used to tell my friends, if you ever read a recipe that has a secret, a hack, or a trick - you can safely skip that step. Not 100% of course, but close enough to it. If you like it, it is good food. If people eat it and enjoy it, it is not gross. No food is clean, and no food is dirty. If a tradition or recipe matters to you, that is wonderful, celebrate it, but different takes are not wrong. Enjoy, delight even, try not to police, and remember humbly that our tastes are not just subjective but deeply influenced by expectation and context. Cook what you enjoy, or even just what you need, with the tools you have, and that includes your physical capabilities and your skills, and you are doing it right.
posted by Nothing at 1:35 PM on July 1 [12 favorites]

I've at least started to notice more of a trend lately of YouTube cooking show hosts saying "This it what I like, but if you like it X way, that's good too!"

I've also noticed some more short cuts with a nod to making fewer dishes to clean. So maybe people are getting less prescriptivist about things being "perfect," and by perfect, they just mean finicky.

I occasionally get sore or numb hands. Still very very rare, but a YouTube channel where the host shows joint friendly cooking techniques would be nice, kind of like some exercise videos where they model "beginner" and "advanced" positions. I'd also appreciate some info about what happens with the modifications. Like, in the case of garlic, explain how the different versions impact the particular dish your making.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:43 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the intro, Nothing... Here is a fantastic hack to get the smell of garlic off your hands:

Rub your hands with/on something made of stainless steel while rinsing them under running water. I like a spoon, but it can be the side of the sink, whatever. Just rub the spoon everywhere the garlic touched your hands and you are good to go. No soap needed.

I know. You don't believe me. It's OK.
posted by jenquat at 1:44 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I feel like the sink trick doesn't fully get rid of the smell, although I've only tried it on a sink side and not with a spoon.

But I also eat a lot of garlic sometimes, so maybe it's just coming out of my pores.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:51 PM on July 1

I have a different disability: my body can no longer tolerate garlic without undesirable repercussions. So I don't use any kind of garlic: jarred, fresh, frozen, powdered, oil in which it has been steeping, etc. Back when I ate garlic and loved eating it, I didn't like jarred garlic because it tasted weird to me and usually gave me heartburn. I disliked mincing garlic and would have preferred to use jarred, but there you are.

I still use shortcuts available to me like stock cubes (if they don't contain garlic powder), tinned tomatoes and beans, pre-ground spices, mayo I didn't make myself, the list is endless.

As many others have already said, do what works for you. And if you come across someone who works differently, don't shame them or make them feel bad or pity them. I mean, the idea of eating whole pickled cloves of garlic makes me shudder but that shouldn't stop anyone else from enjoying it. Just don't tell me I'm broken or wrong or have no taste because I don't.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:51 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I'd never even heard of an electric jar opener, but jars are getting harder for me to open (I actually think it is due to over-torqued factories as opposed to me getting weaker) so heck yeah I'm buying one of those! Thanks article!
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:25 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

I mean if you can't do something or it's difficult to do something one way and there is an option to do it another fuck anyone who tries to tell you differently. i agree that this certainly be a ableist mine field so you know try to care about your fellow people.

That said I agree with the piles of people that have already said that there is a big difference. If you can and it's convenient and you want it really does make a fair amount of difference in something garlic forward. If it's just a minor ingredient or is cooked for ages who cares.

Also I never got the hatred for garlic presses... they work and are barely going to take you longer than getting out the jarred stuff, you do all know that you don't need to peel garlic if you are putting it in a press. And people seem to be forgetting that MJG is not cheap... at least shy of bulk which will get shitty real quick, if you are using alot of it you might want to break out that press and save several bucks.
posted by cirhosis at 2:32 PM on July 1

Apparently some of you do not rank "cleaning the food processor" up there with "getting a root canal without anesthesia"! WHO KNEW???

I will admit that my use of my food processor increased when I moved into an apartment with a dishwasher.

Now THAT is a hill I will die on, I will only go back to handwashing everything kicking and screaming
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:42 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]

Jar openers! I have a small tool that helps but is not a full electric opener: The Swing-Away. It has an adjustable clamp to grip the lid, then you use the handle as a lever arm to get more force to open the lid. Works great but it does require some grip strength. I have some long term hand weakness from RSI and while chopping isn't a problem for me, jars can be. This helps.

Then again the electric openers are only a few bucks more and only a little bigger.
posted by Nelson at 2:48 PM on July 1

Cast iron pans -- not for me. I'm sure they're the greatest or whatever, but I will injure myself badly.
posted by travertina at 2:51 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

This kind of absolutism also goes hand-in-hand with stunt cooking.

My brother will cook for his family by shopping for precise expensive ingredients, taking 4 hours, and using every pan in the house. Then gets upset when his kids aren't excited about the meal. My sister in law cooks more regularly, feeds the family things they like, and uses the damn instantpot already.
posted by travertina at 2:54 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]

hatred for garlic presses

Honestly, garlic press is more likely to irritate my hands, which is probably weird! ( Also on my list of risky items: can openers, lever door handles, scissors of there's resistance, earmold impression syringes), but I love how I don't have to peel the garlic!

I also don't like the flavor from the press as much if it's not being cooked, so if it's going in a salsa I prefer it minced.
posted by ghost phoneme at 3:11 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Apparently some of you do not rank "cleaning the food processor" up there with "getting a root canal without anesthesia"! WHO KNEW???

I have no problem cleaning the food processor here by hand, but it has a clean design without a bunch of nooks and crannies and the blade and spindle part are designed to come apart for easy cleaning. It's not any more difficult to clean than a knife, bowl and cutting board, if not even easier.

The robocoupe or turbochef food processors I've used in commercial kitchens have the same kind of clean, smooth design that cleans easily.

I definitely have met home food processors (especially the older "cuisineart" style ones) that are too complicated for their own good that have way too many crannies and they're a huge pain in the ass to clean.

For reference when I say "turbochef" or "robot coupe" it's not the kind of device that has like 4-5 different kinds of cutting discs, a disc shaped enclosure for the cutting blade discs and weird wiper bars you have to attach to the discs to keep ingredients from getting stuck, where you have to slowly feed cut ingredients into the hopper/presser and it comes out of a chute into a waiting bowl.

The device I'm talking about is more like a fat, wide blender with just two hooked blades at the bottom on a removable spindle. You can open the top completely and put like 6-10 cups of ingredients into it directly, including whole peeled onions, as well as use a sort of feeder chute with the presser/cover part.

A lot of home food processors are overly complicated and try to do too many things, like grating, slicing carrots or cucumbers into rounds, fine grating like a microplane, etc, and they have way too many parts and nooks and crannies.

A commercial grade Robot Coupe brand processor looks like this and it's super easy to clean and can also be run right through a commercial or home kitchen dishwasher.

Also I never got the hatred for garlic presses...

I strongly dislike them because most of them are a huge pain in the ass to clean and take longer than using a good knife and knife rocking skills, and you just end up with crushed, bruised messy garlic that's had all of the aromatic juices pressed right out of it.

I've met a couple of models that have that reversible feature where there's a sort of pronged plunger that's supposed to clean the remaining garlic chunks out of the holes but I find that you just end up with those sticky bits on the plunger or cleaner and all over the place, including in any features in the handle or the hinge.

If I had a reason to not use knife skills and I was going to use a non-powered, non-cutting tool to crush and masticate garlic I'd just use a mortar and pestle and make rough garlic paste. You could also probably get results like this with a rolling pin and just mash it to bits without any cutting or power tools or needing a whole lot of dexterity or strength.

Shoot, you could place a handful of cloves between two wood cutting boards or two metal pans and just lean into them and twist them a few times and get some pretty decent crushed and masticated garlic paste and small bits that would cook just fine in a sauce or whatever. Actually, I might try this with two cast iron pans and see what happens, might even be able to peel a whole head of garlic like this.

If I need a ton of minced garlic I'd rather use a food processor. If I need just a few cloves I'd rather use a knife. To me arlic presses are the worst of both of those worlds and have low capacity with the extra cleaning difficulty.
posted by loquacious at 3:14 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

Look obviously I don't agree that garlic presses make crappy garlic bits... but if that's your experience I am firmly in the you do you camp. My knife skills are definitely up to quickly mincing garlic, my main dislike is handling it :)

I just really feel that cooking in general is one of those areas where we should be giving a couple of pros/cons and not trying to ever tell someone their method is dumb. Not that you did but a fair amount of this thread has rode that line.
posted by cirhosis at 3:44 PM on July 1

Yeah, I'm not against the existence of garlic presses or their use. People can do whatever they want and I'm not an absolutist about this. I'm not saying garlic presses are dumb, I'm just saying I personally dislike them and the results they produce.

Just don't ask me to wash the darn thing after you use it because I'm not into it. I'd rather mince the garlic for someone else by hand than clean and wash a garlic press.
posted by loquacious at 4:25 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

This has been mentioned upthread, but Japanese supermarkets have lovely tubes of all sorts of things. For a long time, we've been picking up the garlic, ginger, and gochujang tubes. Just recently, they've expanded a bunch. Roasted garlic in a squeeze bottle? Jesus, that saves so much time, and it smells and tastes fantastic. Jalapenos? In a country where you can't find fresh? Yes, please. And, sure, it might be somewhat less than authentic, but the squeeze bottle of harissa is a goddamn revelation mixed with mayonnaise. With french fries, or on sandwich, it's fantastic.

As far as restaurant stuff, and "cooking," in any restaurant I worked in that used significant quantities of garlic, we got vacuum packed peeled cloves, blitzed them with a food processor, and packed them in olive oil. No one has time to sit and mince garlic in a busy kitchen.

If I'm cooking for other people, or making sausage, yes, I still mince fresh garlic, but that's about the only time I do anymore.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:33 PM on July 1 [9 favorites]

I like this article's perspective about considering which "that's not good enough" cooking ideas one has are actually unconsidered (and often ableist and sometimes privileged) attitudes.

For those who like garlic but don't always want to deal with it from scratch, if there are Asian groceries near you I recommend the bags of peeled garlic that are usually available in the produce department. We get one and stick it in the freezer. The garlic grates easily (even while still frozen) on a Microplane or other sharp grater and the taste in a cooked dish is almost indistinguishable from fresh. And when we've used all the cloves that are large enough to grate comfortably without risking knuckles or fingertips, I put the remaining small ones in a Dutch oven with enough olive oil to cover and cook it in the oven on a low heat until we have garlic confit, which will store in the fridge for a long time.
posted by Lexica at 5:08 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

For jars, sometimes I give the edge of the lid a crack with a knife or the countertop, to break the vaporlock. I like the swing away too!
posted by drowsy at 5:20 PM on July 1

"the antecedent of that pronoun" -Yes, as in I do not peel them. I do remove as many layers as possible but with a high speed blender with one of those chopper bowl attachments ... viola... most of it is gone. If making minced garlic where appearance matters AND the outer peel is brown (I have two varieties like this - an Andalucian and a German variety) I use one of those silicone peeler thingies... like this here. Insert clove and roll on a firm surface. Garlic peeled. Beats doing a garlic maracas impersonation rattling them around in a sauvepan or similar.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 6:49 PM on July 1

I have some sympathy with this article. My daughter had a chef partner who would not use a garlic press, would only mince the garlic . This seems like one step beyond insisting on fresh garlic - and I couldn't wrap my head about it because the garlic press is the bomb (except the cleaning part which is yuck). Also, I may have been that person who was judgey mcjudgey about garlic in a jar. But ya know, cooking is such a personal thing and a disability can change everything.

Also, I remember my mother and grandmother being very excited about instant mashed potatoes when they first came out in the 60s (two women very tired of peeling and boiling and then mashing untold mountains of potatoes.)
posted by bluesky43 at 7:17 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Everything (other than desserts) always needs more Parmesan!
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:25 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I had a parmesan ice cream last year and it was fantastic.
posted by emmling at 7:42 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

Everything (other than desserts) always needs more Parmesan!

Oooo, that sounds like an Iron Chef a challenge and I am down.

I bet you could do a pear and/or apricot gallette with a very careful, light sprinkle of curls or placement of a really hard parmesan reggiano right after they came out of the oven so they'd stick like hard chocolate shavings to the pastry.

There's precedent for this kind of sweet and salty cheese combo, think baked brie and fruit..

I'm not a huge fan of doing sheeted/folded puff pastry but I might actually give this a shot especially if I randomly end up with some premade puff pastry at some point.

If I was going to try this I would just start with a really classic stonefruit gallette and add a very small crumble or dusting of good pre-shaved parmasan reggiano right after it came out of the oven, like maybe half a dozen thumbnail sized flakes or so. Not too much, just a hint of contrast.
posted by loquacious at 7:50 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]

Not to abuse the edit: Or a tart apple gallette would be especially good. Maybe even berries.
posted by loquacious at 7:51 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

One of my all time fave recipes involves garlic and goes:

1. Place forty unpeeled garlic bulbs in the bottom of the roasting tin.
2. Add the meat of your choice topped with a generous dollop of butter- preferably beef, but pork or chicken will do.
3. Seal tightly with foil and cook at 225F for 5-6 hours.

I tried this with the driest, toughest, freezer burned, desiccated, most road kill like, slab of beef you could possibly find at the discount food store. Man was that amazing. People who did not know thought I had pushed the boat out and sourced some premium steak.

An intense flavor made all the better with copious amounts of Parmesan...
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:21 PM on July 1 [12 favorites]

Incidentally, I just made this here. Mainly because I just harvested 15lbs of garlic scapes. If you do not know these check them out at your local farmers market. All of mine are spoken for or frozen/pickled/consumed...
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:28 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

Pushed...the...boat out? And found...steak? So intrigued by this turn of phrase...
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:29 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I read the essay. I waited on this thread, today, because I saw the comments were, inevitably, veering into the classist/snobbery realm that so many cooking threads do here.
Why do you guys keep thinking that taste is an absolute? You know, vision and hearing and pretty much every other human sensation is on a spectrum, so why do you people here keep saying that things taste the same to everyone?! Maybe we're different?!
Like, fucks sakes, some of us in the business do it because we have a lot of joy learning about these things, and we want to share them. We're not all fucking snobs.
I want to help people think about what they smell and taste, and develop a sense memory, and learn what works for them.

From the essay : " I’m not here to argue that pre-minced garlic tastes the same as the fresh stuff (it doesn’t) nor that any of the alternatives I’ve mentioned are equivalent to their fresh counterparts. I’m here to say the way we talk about accessible food options—whether in our homes, in recipe books, or in cooking shows—needs to change.

The question of why someone might use pre-minced garlic is less important than this one: Does it matter?
Cooking should be about the joy of making something you’re excited to eat or serve—about preparing food you like in whatever way works best for you.
posted by winesong at 8:40 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]

tiny frying pan - Mixed metaphors also work with mixed ingredients used in the right plaice. Have you tried Red Snapper/Grouper/ Sea Bass... cooked with large amounts of GOOD garlic?
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:50 PM on July 1

My MAJOR gripe with the essay was in the paragraph where the writer stated; " I’m here to say the way we talk about accessible food options—whether in our homes, in recipe books, or in cooking shows—needs to change." Utter nonsense. What needs to change is the income / economic social disparity...

Or, we could all kind of think a little bit more about what our own personal food snobbishness might be saying to the people around us while also working toward the massive changes involved in income inequality.
posted by Etrigan at 9:16 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]

An old quote by the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain seemed to resurface every few months. “Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in screwtop jars,” he had written in his book Kitchen Confidential, first published in 2000. “Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”

This was the first of many haughty ideas I’d hear about cooking and how selective we should be with our food.

I've never read Bourdain but seeing that quote for the first time it is obviously a funny remark by an industry chef not meant to be taken literally.

There are different ways to read that remark. The author thinks it's an example of food classism. But I think in Bourdain's mind, he's trying to tell an American audience in a culture that has normalized mass-produced fast food that people ought to be deserving of better choices.

I do wonder if maybe the author would've had a different experience if they started learning cooking not from YouTube and social media, but from an Alice Waters cookbook. Alice Waters is a famous advocate of whole food cooking, but how much of that is food classism and absolutism, versus a simple consequence of an American having experienced a different food culture, in her case it was Alice Waters' France during the late 60's, but I think it could've been anywhere other than industrialized North America at the time.
posted by polymodus at 10:10 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]

So many people write about food as if everyone thinks the same things taste good, when that is so obviously not the case.

I'm certain there are people who think jarred garlic tastes better than that fresh stuff.

Every time I'm tempted to let someone shame me about food, I remember they are probably one of those weirdos who think cheese tastes good, so why should I think their preferences are likely to match mine?
posted by straight at 11:40 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I do wonder if maybe the author would've had a different experience if they started learning cooking not from YouTube and social media, but from an Alice Waters cookbook. Alice Waters is a famous advocate of whole food cooking, but how much of that is food classism and absolutism, versus a simple consequence of an American having experienced a different food culture, in her case it was Alice Waters' France during the late 60's, but I think it could've been anywhere other than industrialized North America at the time.
posted by polymodus at 10:10 PM on July 1 [+] [!]

I think you are on to something here. When my friend group became food snobs, it was because our -60s mothers had quit cooking in favor of industrial products. Fish fingers, Angel Delight, spaghetti hoops, hot dogs, dried mashed potatoes, that frozen vegetable mix that succeeds in making perfectly good vegetables taste horrible, casseroles. Growing up, you could either follow in that track, but gradually find more sophisticated products, or find inspiration in our grandmothers' kitchens, or in countries with less industrial food. Which we did. We were literally hungry for some tastes other than bland / disgusting. (And on top of that my mum's food was making me sick because of allergies). And it was the same in many other industrialized nations at the time. The US was a generation ahead of Europe, because the American food industry was ahead of the European industry.

But this author could be my daughter, she has a different perception of the culture of food, and of food, because of what happened back then, and because of the internet and even TV.
There is a lot of performance culture out there on the you tubes, but also the TV show competitions, and often a judgemental tone, because that makes for good entertainment. Also, I feel there is an expectation that all food at all hours should be restaurant-level in taste and presentation. And then you have to look cute and smell nice while you are cooking up something fantastic for your equally cool friends. Is there an ableist aspect to this? Well yes of course there is. That whole culture is ableist. But I am not sure jarred garlic is the solution.

Strangely, we have been talking a lot about food in my classes this past academic year. And from my perspective, far the most of the students are very accepting of one another's choices. Their social groups are diverse and inclusive, also when it comes to food. Maybe it's because it is a technical university. To be honest, a lot of my students don't get anxious about cultural stuff because they don't notice it in the first place. My boss and I actually asked them directly about it, because there is an epidemic of social anxiety and depression among students in this country, and one woman answered: nah, we aren't scared of performance culture, we're scared of Structural Engineering 1. They watch the food shows, but they don't think they have to emulate them.
posted by mumimor at 12:00 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]

Mod note: A couple deleted. A) maybe don't complain that people are actually discussing the whole point of the actual article? B) really, really don't use [medical condition] as a metaphor for gross or disgusting. People here have [medical condition]. You might have [medical condition] some day. Don't. do. that. Also, some are using this thread to wax eloquent and at length or even speaking imperatively and repeatedly about the (usually long-form) way you source, cook or prepare certain ingredients when the article is about how people with disabilities shouldn't feel shamed about using shortcuts. Please stop. Make a different post for discussing the different thing you'd rather discuss.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:08 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]

I mean, any of us who use frozen ravioli or any of that fresh tortellini you get in the fridge section of the market could also be accused of cheating too. Any of us who buys bread instead of making it from scratch is also cheating, or could be accused of the same. Or anyone who uses a jar of jelly or a can of tomatoes, instead of making their own jam or canning their own tomatoes.

All of us use one kind of culinary "shortcut" or another, whether because of physical ability or time or convenience or just because we bloody feel like it. Some of them have just become so normalized we don't even think that's what we're doing. At the end of the day, the point of cooking is to feed someone, and if the person who needs to be fed is successfully fed, it doesn't matter how it happened.

I've been doing a deep dive into my ice cream recipe books recently, because I just splurged on a super-fancy high-tech automatic ice cream maker. It's something I've wanted for a long time - I've had other ice cream makers, the kind where you have to freeze the bucket that you churn the ice cream in, and they work fine but they limit you to only one batch of ice cream at a time and then you have to wait like a day or two before you can make a second batch while it freezes up, and the bucket takes up space in the fridge, yadda yadda. This thing, though - this thing chills and churns your ice cream mix at the same time, so you can make batch after batch without futzing around with freezing anything. Anyway - one of my ice cream books is from Ample Hills, which I still believe is one of the best ice cream shops in New York; they have some kick-ass flavors and they prioritize quality ingredients.

When I was flipping through their book the other day, though, I noticed in the earlier chapters, where they discuss the kinds of ingredients and tools they recommend, they also addressed what kind of ice cream maker a person should use - and they recommended using the old-school hand crank kind. Seriously - the kind of thing where you have the ice and the salt around the edge of the container, and you have someone sitting there for a good half hour constantly turning a hand crank.

I read that, I thought about it - and I decided "fuck that" and flipped past it to the recipes, which I will make in my fancy ice cream maker without the SMALLEST particle of guilt. Because - even if someone is sneering at me over "oh, you made that ice cream in an automatic thing", I'll still be eating a batch of It Came From Gowanus so who cares.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:51 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]

Hey, if Paulie in Goodfellas can deal with fresh garlic in the joint, then so can you.

minced garlic in little toothpaste-type tubes, so you can just squeeze it out

This stuff is fantastic, by the way. The jar stuff just.....doesn't have enough flavor for me. I do like the Gia brand from Italy, which is a few pennies more expensive, but the cheaper plastic tubes we get at the supermarket now are just fine, too.
posted by gimonca at 5:46 AM on July 2

Tomato paste comes in tubes too and it's a game changer for those who only need 2 Tbsp for a recipe (e.g. my quick, weeknight chili)
posted by mikelieman at 6:05 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]

I should note that Paul Sorvino slicing the garlic with the razor blade is an illustration of the issues. There's no big monetary or supply-chain or even knowledge hurdle to doing this if you want. But I can also think of two people in my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances who physically couldn't do this due to different neurological conditions.

Is it a great, fun tip that some people could do? Sure. Do we need to say that everyone must do it? Nah, you can use the tube garlic, it'll work great.
posted by gimonca at 6:07 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

Is there an ableist aspect to this? Well yes of course there is. That whole culture is ableist. But I am not sure jarred garlic is the solution.

I'm not sure I'm totally following you, but the jarred garlic literally WAS the solution for the author.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:23 AM on July 2 [11 favorites]

I'm not sure I'm totally following you, but the jarred garlic literally WAS the solution for the author.

Sorry. What I meant was that one cannot change an ableist culture with one little trick, such as accepting ones personal use of jarred garlic. The ableist culture will always find new ways to make people feel small and inadequate.

Now I'm here again, I'd also like to comment that disabilities can be a lot of different things. I started cooking because I had very severe allergic reactions, and then later when I acquired mental health issues, cooking became my connection to life. I very much acknowledge that mincing garlic can be impossible for some people, but the reason I acknowledge their pain is that for me, mincing garlic can be a temporary route out of dissociation when I am doing badly and it is definitely an important source of physical health.

Providing nourishment to my friends and family is the one thing I can do, when I can't do anything else.
posted by mumimor at 6:42 AM on July 2

I've never read Bourdain but seeing that quote for the first time it is obviously a funny remark by an industry chef not meant to be taken literally.

Eh? I mean… the dirty “secret” about Tony Bourdain is that he was an asshole.
posted by slkinsey at 7:03 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]

Like with many of us, there were two Tony Bourdains… a younger, less thoughtful asshole; and an older, more thoughtful asshole who allowed his widening experience to lead him to wider compassion. That latter Bourdain is much missed.
posted by thoroughburro at 8:24 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]

Read In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain before you decide whether he was any less of an asshole in his later years.
posted by slkinsey at 9:23 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]

Interesting. I probably don’t care enough to do so, but I’ll make a mental note that his latter reputation isn’t as unanimous as I thought.
posted by thoroughburro at 9:27 AM on July 2

Hey, if Paulie in Goodfellas can deal with fresh garlic in the joint , then so can you.

Adding the counter-argument that Paulie was in prison and therefore had a lot of time on his hands, so he could do things like shave garlic cloves because there wasn't really anything else for him to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]

I've never read Bourdain but seeing that quote for the first time it is obviously a funny remark by an industry chef not meant to be taken literally.

Eh? I mean… the dirty “secret” about Tony Bourdain is that he was an asshole.

I can't make use of this because I don't think in terms of asshole not-asshole binary when reading a line of text used as evidence by the author. The author didn't say Bourdain was an asshole (an ad hominem argument), they said Bourdain was an example of food classism and chose to interpret a line in a particular way. A writer that does not understand basic rhetorical devices like hyperbole is not a very good writer. A writer that doesn't understand theory of mind offers a questionable argument: if Bourdain were alive, and we pressed him on what he really meant by that remark, I think he'd probably respond that he ultimately doesn't give a fuck whether you use that kind of garlic product or not.
posted by polymodus at 2:58 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]

polymodus, that's a long way to go just to say "I disagree with their interpretation of one quote".

And as written, it seems like a very good example of what she's discussing.
posted by sagc at 3:27 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]

polymodus, that's a long way to go just to say "I disagree with their interpretation of one quote".

And as written, it seems like a very good example of what she's discussing.

That's a short way to take all nuance out of a point of disagreement. The reasons given for a disagreement actually matter. If the reasons are evidence for bad writing, or a badly constructed argument, that matters. If a fellow Mefite misses the point and levels an ad hominem as a counter reason, then that's no longer a long way to disagree, I'm just saying it again using more sentences.

I don't care that you think it's a good example, I care if you have good reasons for that and are willing to discuss that. Otherwise you're the one not adding anything to the conversation, just like the other person who wrote their replies.
posted by polymodus at 3:44 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why someone who was... ok, let's avoid "asshole", and go with "famous for making abrasive & wide-sweeping claims, and doubling down on them when challenged", to the point that he looked back at that period in his life and went "I went way too far", should be getting such a sweeping benefit of "he clearly didn't mean what he said, and anybody who thinks he did is incapable of understanding hyperbole and theory of mind, and thus must be a poor writer".

Do you hear yourself? You're reaching to defend a dead man who didn't want to defend himself from that particular period of his life, and in the process making claims about the author's cognitive ability, just to go "nobody *really* thought jarred garlic was that bad".
posted by CrystalDave at 4:00 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]

I cook. Daily.

It's a strange day that I do not include garlic in my meals.

Besides those rare times I do not use garlic, I measure by heads, not cloves. When following recipes, I frequently substitute half a head of garlic for one clove.

I am still fully currently abled and enjoy the process of cooking (slicing/dicing, especially). I smash garlic cloves regularly.

Like the author, I have felt shame for having pre-minced garlic on hand. That was self-shame.

Strangely enough, I used some pre-minced garlic the other day and it was decidedly more potent than the raw cloves I had sitting around in vacuum packed bags.

I am glad the author was able to make peace with herself and what her body can and cannot do. And, enjoy some darn good food, too.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:56 PM on July 2

How do we shame people who post their hot takes here without having read the article

We don’t.
posted by bendy at 1:30 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]

How do we shame people who post their hot takes here without having read the article

We don’t.

I'm not in favor of shaming people, but there is something particularly tone-deaf about giving a hot take that directly does what the article is critiquing as ableist. Even if you don't bother to read the article, you can certainly get a sense of what it is about from reading the comments. Reading neither, and still producing the hot take, isn't cool, and should be discouraged.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:05 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]

Paulie was in prison and therefore had a lot of time on his hands

Yes, that's a superb point to bring out.
posted by gimonca at 8:30 AM on July 3

I have an intermittent tremor that increases the more I do fiddly work. A friend described it as my dexterity being a finite resource. Finely chopping garlic is one of the first things I ditch on a bad day. I've apologised for haphazard and large chopped vegetables because I dropped from "fiddly and requiring concentration" to "dangerous" mid-prep. I usually keep jarlic for those times, when I can't even peel it without issues (I have had both my hand slip while pressing down, or twitch at the wrong moment and pulverised it beyond what I wanted).

I do want to recommend the IKEA garlic press - very easy to clean.

I grew up in a hospitality worker family, so "fresh or you don't deserve garlic" was a family belief. I've heard every single "just do X" there is. Then during my PhD my best friend sat me down to have a serious conversation about why the hell I was persisting in making hommous from scratch every few days when I could buy any number of versions from organic with five ingredients to processed individual packs. I conceded then. I'd gotten shingles, cracked my molars, and something had to change. It's remarkable how few injuries I have now I prioritise ease and convenience where possible. As my mother ages, and her knees have begun to go, she is more likely to take shortcuts too, at least for every day cooking. I do wish folk didn't have to get disabled or hurt to have that empathy.

(I did impale my hand on a steak knife a few years back while cutting up turkey sandwiches, but we have fortunately reduced some of the tremor causing stuff)
posted by geek anachronism at 9:52 PM on July 3 [7 favorites]

So fans of jarred garlic: when would you prefer jarred garlic over garlic powder?
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 6:14 PM on July 4

I am a person with some disability who uses jarred garlic because I know about how much to use in all the recipes I make and I know about how big a scoop = 1 clove. Having never really used garlic powder, and not having many recipes that call for garlic powder, I would need to google a bunch of conversions to figure out how much garlic powder to use. I'm not opposed to it.

I'm just more comfortable using the thing I'm familiar with. Which is really all fresh garlic fans who are temporarily able bodied need to say, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:51 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Jarred garlic to me is in between fresh and powder, but much closer to the fresh side. So I would use jarred garlic to replace fresh, not powder.

I think of fresh garlic as having a pungent brightness to it that can be mellowed based on how you cook it. Garlic powder, on the other hand, starts off nice and mellow.

The exception being Whole Foods garlic powder. To me it's got a harshness closer to fresh garlic than what I want out of a powder.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:13 AM on July 5

I also use jarred garlic primarily in place of fresh, and I use it so often and go through so much of it that it's the first garlic I turn to; I tend to only use garlic powder if it's specifically called for in a recipe. But I feel like in soups and stews, garlic powder is fine (sometimes better than fresh!). But if I'm sauteing something or frying it, the jarred garlic gives a richer/more complex garlic flavor, since you get some actual browning on the garlic. (Of course, I could just not be using enough garlic powder.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:55 PM on July 5

I use canned beets, tomatoes, corn, sometimes fruits in winter. Easy and nutritious. Frozen vegetables are often really good. I love (Buffalo) roasted cauliflower, don't always have spoons for procuring and cutting a cauliflower. The texture of roasted frozen Brussells sprouts is different than fresh, but delicious. If it's between no vegetables and canned/ frozen veg., no brainer.

I kind of dislike the hard texture and little square bits of jarlic, but of course I use it. and garlic powder. and frozen ginger cubes, which are genius.

I was given grief for not making my own kimchi, but the local Korean Grandma kimchi at the nearest Asian market is great, cheap, easy. And I can get Pad Thai to go. Oooh, look, it's close to dinner time, and only a 20 minute ride. Do Everything Yourself the Artisanal Way is mean to people with kids, jobs, handicaps, lives, or who just want to read a book instead.
posted by theora55 at 2:49 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I like making bread, made bread during Covid because it's the law, and, dang, eleventy gazillion sites about making bread and having special expensive tools from France. Go make bread, it will probably be pretty good and smell divine. Do not let Artisanal This-N-That Bullies talk you out of cooking. Cook. Taste lots of ingredients and stuff. You'll get better at it. It's fun a lot of the time and hella useful.
posted by theora55 at 2:53 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]

Very fancy chef cooking with sausage meat, garlic powder, frozen broccoli and on a budget
Because caring is the new black (and it has been for quite a while, at least since Chef Adria went to Haiti).
posted by mumimor at 6:02 AM on July 12

I posted this thread, but don’t keep jarred garlic myself. It’s weird, sometimes you realize you posted a thread to reach out to yourself rather than to others…

I’ve had relatively severe psoriatic arthritis since I was 16, and have gone through many, many stages of lesser and greater ability. This past year or a bit more, I’ve been watching abilities slip through my fingers like the sand I would struggle to cup effectively if I now tried.

Last night, I couldn’t peel the garlic. First time losing that ability, so I stuck with it to the point of helpless frustration and anger, before calling my partner into the kitchen to peel the garlic for me (lucky to have a partner, I know).

It wasn’t until I was watching her and feeling awful that I even remembered making this post. So yeah, jarred garlic is on the shopping list.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:47 AM on July 15 [7 favorites]

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