The Power of Garlic

Leo Tolstoy began his novel Anna Karenina by observing that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As a devoted student of Russian literature, human folly, and baloney in its many guises, it seems to me a similar pattern may apply to many of the life events we all experience. Take the ritual of graduation, for example, apply a little twist to the formula, and see what you get: All graduations are alike; but every once in a while, a graduation comes along that breaks the mold.

Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, I admit, perhaps even testing the limits of baloney, but the graduation of our daughter, Naomi, from Mills College in Oakland, California, in 1995 certainly did not fit the conventional graduation-video script in every respect. Of course, the ceremony itself pretty much conformed to the standard pattern of sun, smiles and speechifying; family and flowers; grandmas and gowns. The mold was shattered only after the ceremony, when the entire family ensemble – at the new graduate’s express request – migrated to downtown San Francisco for a celebratory luncheon at … the Stinking Rose.

The restaurant’s motto said it all: “We Season Our Garlic With Food.” Truth in advertising!

The menu, from top to bottom, was steeped in garlic. Garlic Cioppino, Garlic Baked Triple Cream Goat Brie, Forty Clove Garlic Chicken, Garlic Ice Cream!

By the time we waddled out, our collective breath could have derailed a cable car.

That concluded the graduation celebration, but for my wife Sandra and me, the day was still young. Having now taken our leave of the rest of the family, we made our way down to Fisherman’s Wharf, gawked at the sights and – after a few hours – managed to walk off that heavy lunch.

By about 7 o’clock, we were actually hungry again, so we went into a likely looking restaurant. The maître d’ informed us that all the tables were taken but invited us to wait at the bar for 15 minutes or so till a table could be found.

The bar was packed, except, as it happened, for two seats, which we were happy to occupy. Sure enough, in a little while, we were called to a table. As we stood up to leave the bar, we looked around and saw, to our astonishment, that not a soul remained there.

Mr. and Ms. Garlic Breath, it seems, had entirely cleared the joint!

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