A Word In Edgewise: From CyberSilk Road to Front Porch–Threads of Thoughts

Photo courtesy of BigStock/fortton
Photo courtesy of BigStock/fortton

Photo courtesy of BigStock/fortton

I learned to use chopsticks when I was seven or eight, during those occasions my parents and I dined in downtown Hartford at the Far East Garden. Dad was keen I learn to operate chopsticks properly, calling the restaurant owner to advise. Far East Garden’s enchanting red lanterns illuminated a prominent framed portrait of Sun Yat-Sen.

No doubt one of the enticing flavors in those shared dishes was garlic, absent in our own kitchen. I first saw real garlic when a friend’s mom rubbed a clove into a wooden salad bowl.

At college, the Hong Kong in Harvard Square became a lure and inspiration; those days, one could observe Julia Child shopping at Savenor’s, and everyone aspired to culinary excellence. Accessorizing my first kitchen, I took the plunge. A standard press, with a perforated hopper and handles. Peel clove, insert, squish, clean. Repeat. “Peel” and “clean,” consumed as much effort as the rest of the meal. I switched to powder, but still bit at any new garlic gimmick. A little saucer with swirls of raised, serrated teeth worked a charm–until knuckles confronted said sharp, ceramic teeth.

Today, a brass-knucks concept. The bottom a flattened, curved steel plate with holes; the plate curving up forming an integral handle, allowing the presser’s full strength to bear. In a fortnight, it travelled 6,832 miles from China; a small box addressed to me with a detailed return address.

How? Shaoxing City in Zhengjian Province is one of myriad places where everything’s made, yet is also known for fine rice wines and cultural sites. Who hand-packaged and taped the wee box? No one flew it over, it didn’t have its own cargo container; what organizational marvels accurately handle one garlic press?

Back in Far East Garden, my knowledge of China consisted of “tea,” “porcelain,” “exotic dishes with rice,” and “checkers.” Telephones, no smarter than their users, were attached to the wall and had four-number dialing; long-distance was expensive; letters overseas could take weeks. Now, someone in Building 4 of the Thai Industrial Park has tagged “Boatner” as someone to alert to all things garlic. Is this a good thing? Better than the old? I do love my new press, and as the limerick says, it’s “remarkably easy to clean.”

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