Did you ever get a gift so incredible it left you both thrilled that you received it, and terrified you would wreck it?
The hand-lettered box with a Colver, PA return address label showed up unexpectedly on my desk last week. It smelled a little funky as I opened it and I wondered if someone from my dad’s hometown had sent me sausages, or cheese.
In fact, I glanced around at my co-workers as the increasingly strong scent of garlic wafted around me.
Then, I read the card.
“Laura, I hope you remember me. I brought your dad’s football picture to Central Cambria High School. Been following you on the Molly B and Me blog. Enjoy reading your adventures. I see you have gone to some chef classes and I thought you might be able to use this garlic. This garlic was brought back from Europe by fellow coal miners of your Pap and my Pap. It was smuggled out in snuff cans during the Iron Curtain era. If you want to continue this tradition, you can replant the individual cloves of garlic in your garden this spring. (Save one or two heads in order to do this.) Normally, I plant mine in October but you can plant it in the spring. Tell your mom and the rest of the family we said, “Hello.” Bella Cucina – Buon Appetito! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Nick and Roseann Asashon”
Heads of garlic that traced their genus all the way back across an ocean and through several generations filled the box. The unlikely sight made me laugh, gave me goosebumps and took me back to a tiny town in Western Pennsylvania where green company houses with white front porches and giant backyard gardens lined the streets.
That night, as I crushed a precious clove to use for dinner, I could almost taste the fresh ham my grandma used to make when we’d come to visit.
I have to be honest, though, I’m a little panicked about keeping that garlic line alive. I’m all thumbs in the garden, and they’re not green ones either. And don’t even get me started on the rascally rabbits that roam our neighborhood chomping tender shoots as soon as they pop through the soil.
As directed, I’m storing the box in a cool, dry place. Between now and when I plant those babies, I’m going to be doing a lot of research on garlic cloves and how to raise them.
I really hope I’m up to the task.