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Gilroy Garlic Galaxy

[whitespace] The Burning Bulb of Gilroy Festival Fire: The Burning Bulb of Gilroy will be visible from Highway 101 this weekend.

The sweet scent of garlic announces the arrival of the world's smelliest festival

By Christina Waters

AH, THE STINKING ROSE, beloved of all Mediterranean cooks, crucial in Chinese cuisine and utterly unknown in the culinary habits of the Scandinavians (who have other seasoning groups to deal with). Garlic, according to rogue filmmaker Les Blank, is as good as 10 mothers. Indeed, it is vital to some of the great flavor creations under the sun. Where would a decent bruschetta be without its rub of garlic? Could cioppino even exist without it? Szechuan dining would be impossible without garlic to accompany those black bean sauces. Guys all over America would probably fight for the right to have garlic bread with their BBQ ribs.

Many years ago the folks of Schilling spice fame discovered that Gilroy was home to the world's most perfect garlic fields. Mark Twain (or was it Robert Louis Stevenson?) said that he could smell Gilroy miles before he could see it. He also said that you could marinate a steak by hanging it out on a clothesline anywhere near downtown Gilroy.

You know where this is going. ... For the past two decades the fun-loving folks down in Gilroy have thrown open their doors, their arms and their cooking pots to the entire world at that gala garlic gastromania known as the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It happens for the 21st time on
July 23, 24 and 25, from 10am until 7pm each day. General admission to mondo garlic's good stuff--live music, tasting options, extremely hot weather--is $10 ($5 for kids 6­12 and seniors 60-plus). And because this is America--a land capable of electing Bill Clinton president and making sure that there's cable TV in every home--the place to go for details is www.gilroygarlicfestival.com.

If you've never gone to one of these infamous garlic festivals, you should probably make it a priority on your Millennium Checklist. You do have a Millennium Checklist, don't you? Always wanted to camp out at the foot of Kilimanjaro? Now's the time. Hankering to hop a ride on a freight train? Go for it. If you've ached to pig out on double fudge mocha ice cream without regard for your waistline, when better?

Finally, what about visiting all those summer art, wine and food festivals you've been putting off for some other year? Hello--if you want to do it sometime this century, do it now.

Seriously, the fiesta of the stinking rose is more fun than $10 can usually buy. Dress very, very casually--this is T-shirts and cut-offs country--and bring mad money so that you can swill down some Central Coast zinfandel while you inhale two new additions to the garlic festival's menu: the Italian-flavored garlic salsiccia polenta (sausage in marinara sauce over polenta) and pollo polenta tre colori (chicken over polenta). In addition to these, expect the usual steamy flavors of garlic calamari, garlic prawns, garlic ice cream, garlic everything. (But don't worry about garlic breath, because organizers will provide plenty of sugar-free Eclipse gum, the festival's official breath freshener.) Yes, you can also buy lots of garlic paraphernalia--including braids of garlic, garlic soap and garlic honey to send back east as Christmas gifts. Expect plenty of live rock, blues and C&W music, with dancing to match. It's a total scene, and what appears to be half the United States--and lots of Germany, Italy, Japan and France to boot--will join you. Gilroy is just down the highway, but think about going early; parking can be a challenge starting at noon. Or call the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association for more about this year's festival, at 408/842-1625.

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From the July 22-28, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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