Wednesday, October 09, 2013

On the odor of Ajo

We went shopping a couple of days ago for a handful of things we forgot to buy on the way down. One of them was minced garlic, an almost daily staple for us. Yes, I know we can mince our own garlic, but the pre-cut stuff is a lot easier for me as I am afflicted with some sort of weird skin condition that retains the smell of garlic, shallots and onions for days after I handle them. And yes, I know about those stainless steel bars that supposedly absorb all the garlic smell from your fingers via magic. I have one and it barely works and in any event it's home hanging on a nail under a drive out skein of garlic cloves.

We went to the place where one might expect to find it, the spaghetti sauce aisle, and it wasn't there. Not dissuaded, this is the store after all where the matches are stocked with the candy, my second thought was with the vegetables and lo and behold there it was. Not packaged in nice glass bottles with leak proof lids, but rather in a can like green beans. But it was what it was and so I bought it and brought it home and used it to cook up some of the 9 pounds of fish we got suckered into buying from Alejandro.

Now of course the problem was how to keep it contained for its short life in the refrigerator, given that it lacked a lid. To address this obvious lack of planning on the part of the Herdez Food Corporation, I wrapped it up in the nice long piece of plastic wrap making sure that it was double and triple folded over the bottom. Nothing was getting out of there! Except for the pungent aroma of garlic that pervaded everything in the fridge the next morning.

So I put the wrapped can in a zip lock baggie and figured that would be plenty. That night I was brought up short again so MLW added a second bag to the first and the plastic wrap. The next morning the fridge stunk even more.

Last night we decided that we were running out of nights to cook so we threw it away. There wasn't much left anyway, and there was no chance that I wanted that smell in my otherwise pristine cooler for the whole drive home. So out it went. 

In the middle of the night I was awakened to that familiar smell, pervading our condo, no doubt abetted by the blower on the air conditioner that was unfortunately just above the garbage can. I lay there trying to decide just how bad it was and whether it really warranted getting dressed and walking all the way to the trash house knowing full well I would be contending with Raccoons for access. I decided it could wait and returned to a fitful sleep, rising this morning at the earliest hour yet and making my first priority the disposal of what seemed to be turning into a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Our little home returned to normal almost immediately. Lesson learned, bring a jar of the stuff from home next time. We got talking about how to say "The garlic smells" in Spanish and that took me to the dictionary I use on my iPhone.

First I had to get past the verb form "to smell something." This dictionary is kind of funny because it's designed for native speakers of both English and Spanish - it has examples in each. Like so many times before I clicked on the little "speaker" icon and got a wordy sentence in English - "To perceive sensations with the olfactory system." Not exactly what I wanted, I was more after the action of giving off a smell. "Oler" was clearly not correct so I dug a bit more and found my way to "olor" or, "Any property detected by the olfactory system." Now we're talking nouns and we're getting synonyms like "aroma" and "fragancia." But that's still not quite right although I suppose I could just say "The smell of the garlic was strong" and be done with it.

A bit more digging and it became obvious that what I was trying to say was a combination of both - "Oler" is not only to use your nose but to emit a smell as well. So it's something like "Oler" an "olor." And that epiphany brought me to the best example ever, using both words, in both English and Spanish -

"Amo el olor de napalmo en la manaƱa. Huele como a victoria."

 Some application developer somewhere has a real sense of humor, quoting Robert Duval's oft-cited line from Apocalypse Now, about his love of napalm and its smell of victory. I'll admit it had me laughing out loud.

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