Die, Vampire, Die.

There is a moment in the musical “Title of Show” in which its creators, Jeff and Hunter, find themselves stuck in a quagmire of frustration and creative self doubt. Why should they bother putting on a show at all? What the hell were they thinking?

To the rescue comes their friend Susan, who tells them that vampires are eating up their confidence and creativity by way of a song entitled, appropriately enough, Die Vampire, Die!

According to her, “a vampire is any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression, but they can assume many seductive forms”:

 

1.) The Pigmy Vampires– “They’ll swarm around your head like gnats and say things like: ‘Your teeth need whitening’, ‘You went to state school?’, ‘You sound weird’, and ‘Shakespeare, Sondheim, (and) Sedaris did it before you and better than you.’”

2.) The Air Freshener Vampire– Who “doesn’t want you to write about bad language, blood or blow jobs… which will leave your work toothless, gutless, and crotchless, but you’ll be left with two tight paragraphs all kittens that your grandma would be so proud of.”

3.) The Vampire of Despair– “The Mother of All Vampires”. “It’ll wake you up at 4am to say things like: ‘Who do you think you’re kidding?’ ‘You look like a fool.’ ‘No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough.’”

“Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, it’s the voice of reason?”

With apologies to the second type of vampire, this last question is one that has seized me by the balls. It was important for me to hear that I’m not the only one who is plagued by them. The fact that the message was conveyed through the magic of musical theatre made it all the more resonant, because that’s how I learn most of my life lessons.

We all have our demons– ghosts that haunt us, ogres who hide under our beds, vampires that swarm around our heads. I know I’ve got them and, if you’re the least bit introspective, I know you’ve got them, too.

Or, if you happen to be one of those people completely untroubled by the monsters of self-doubt, I’d love to know how you’ve managed it, though I probably won’t believe you.

For me, this has been The Summer of Vampire #3. There is no logical explanation for his presence. No traumatic events have occurred in the past months; my life has been calm, stable, and full of small pleasures. I certainly didn’t invite him in intentionally.

But I must have left a window open somewhere.

My particular vampire sits on the edge of my bed in the morning and tells me there’s little point in getting up. He rides the bus with me to work and says, “I hope you love waiting tables, because that’s what you’re going to be doing until your body gives out. After that, you’re totally screwed”. He peeks over my computer screen to say things like, “You have nothing interesting to say, so why even bother? It’s not like you can ever make a career out of writing.”

After a while, I start to believe the things he says. I stay in bed too long. I feel trapped inside my white shirt and black waiter’s apron. I shoot down my own ideas. I avoid writing.

And then, I remember this little song and understand that I am old enough and (hopefully) sane enough to realize that this vampire is full of shit. (Again, sorry, #2). I play this song repeatedly to remind myself of that.

Clearly, this soul-sucking incubus has overstayed his welcome, if there was ever any welcome to have overstayed in the first place. I’d love to drive a wooden stake through his heart, but he lives inside my head, so the operation would more than likely be fatal for both of us. So I have decided to do the next best thing, which is drive him away. As a fallen Catholic, I no longer have any crucifixes hanging about, so I’m opting for garlic.

Lots and lots of garlic.

It’s about fucking time I got rid of the bastard.

Chicken with 42 Cloves of Garlic

There is a traditional Provençal dish that calls for 40 cloves of garlic. I have upped the number by two for extra protection. And I have peeled each clove, so that I have easier access to them, should the need for them arise, which it will.

The beauty of this dish is threefold. One: the raw sharpness of the garlic mellows into sweet softness as it cooks, making it Two: extremely delicious and easily eaten by those of us without fangs. And Three: it’s extremely simple to prepare.

Wait. Make that fourfold, because the soft, sweet garlic is traditionally mashed over toast, which is my favorite part of the entire endeavor.

With each clove of garlic you pull out if its skin, think of something sharp or unpleasant that has stung you over the years. That rejection letter from Martha Stewart Living? Drop it into your work bowl. Not skinny enough for skinny jeans? Toss that in, too. Continue to do so until all your cloves and cares have been peeled and thrown into the pile. Knowing that their power weakens with each moment of cooking makes the process almost as sweet as the garlic will be when you’ve finished.

Now I realize that the typical vampire is traditionally repelled by raw garlic, but never have I read anything indicating his tolerance for it cooked. So I’m taking my chances. If, for some reason, the vampire comes back to roost, I will immediately plunge myself into a large vat of skordalia for safe measure.

Serves 2 to 4 Vampire Offenders

Ingredients:

• 2/3 cups olive oil
• 4 whole chicken legs– thighs and drumsticks attached (Many recipes call for whole chickens to be used, but I prefer to use dark meet exclusively because it has more flavor than white meat and it’s less expensive. Besides, breast meat tends to dry out faster than a 50 year-old wet nurse…)
• 42 cloves of garlic, peeled and emotionally processed
• 3/4 cups chicken stock
• 1/2 cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
• 6 to 8 branches of fresh thyme, about which I refuse to allude to philosophically in this post
• About 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest
• About 1 tablespoon of butter, salted or unsalted– it doesn’t matter which.
• Salt and pepper, to taste.

Procedure:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 ºF. Rinse chicken, pat dry with paper towels, liberally apply salt and pepper to them, and let them come to room temperature.

2. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat oil over a medium fire. Add chicken legs two at a time, browning well on both sides– about 3 minutes per side. Do your best not to tear the skin. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside until needed later.

3. Let the chicken fatty oil cool down a little, then add your garlic cloves and cook them over medium heat again, stirring and shaking the pan all the while to let then dance about inside. The goal here is to give them a little color– something for which vampires seem to have no appreciation, given their well-known views on daylight.

4. When the garlic is sufficiently browned, add the chicken stock and wine. Arrange your chicken over the garlic cloves, toss in the thyme and lemon zest and bring to a simmer. Do not under any circumstances cross the chicken legs– this is no time for false modesty.

5. When a simmer has been achieved, cover your pan with its accompanying lid or, if you have no lid, aluminum foil, making certain you have a tight seal. Pop the pan into your already-hot oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

6. When the chicken is finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven and place it on your stove top. Take the chicken from the pot and place on a warm plate, covered. Remove, too, the garlic cloves and place in a bowl, also covered for warmth’s sake. Discard the thyme sprigs. Let the pot liquid simmer gently over a lowish medium flame until it has reduced by about half. Turn off the heat, add butter and stir in well. Your sauce should have the consistency of something slightly less than brown gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings to your own, particular preferences.

7. To serve, place chicken legs on a platter, scatter the garlic cloves around them and pour over the sauce. Or just grab a chicken leg, shake it violently at your now-weakened, fleeing demons, and eat it over the sink. However you choose to eat it, just remember to serve it with toast. Lots and lots of toast.

For the sweet, soul-saving garlic, I mean.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Meatness, Savories, Stage, Film, and Television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Die, Vampire, Die.

  1. brhau says:

    I was really hoping this was going to be about the Twitter vampires.

  2. Ryan Franson says:

    It’s serendipity that my (now ritual) seventh, no-really-I’m-not-looking-again-after-this-time, perusal of my Twitter feed brought me here, rather than the cornucopia of good, less good, wildly conflicting recipes for this exact dish I would have waded through otherwise.

    I’m free of a trip into the Google recipe vortex. Thank you for that.

    It’s been a summer of Vampire #3 for me as well, so here’s to hoping the garlic will keep the vampires away.

    • You randomly saw a tweet about Chicken with 42 Cloves of Garlic? This Twitterland sound like a place where magic happens. I’m glad I could save you from the vortex, at least temporarily.

      In my experience, I’ve not found two recipes for this that were the same, which is both frustrating and liberating at the same time. I hope mine works for you, because it totally works for me.

      And that Vampire #3 is a real son of a bitch. Best of luck to you.

  3. Bravo! Bravoooo! I can smell the garlic from here. A great post and you’re absolutely on par with all the pre-writing ideas floating through my head. Thanks for the reminder to tell all the creativity vampires to go **(*& themselves.

    :)

    xoxoxo, Brooke

    • “Vampires, go f*** yourselves!” should be the basic, emergency-level incantation against said monsters.

      Thank you my dear. Now let’s not go shooting down our own ideas anymore, shall we? xom

  4. Thea says:

    Vampires – difficult to deal with, but ohsomuch easier than Mercury in retrograde.

    • For some reason, I’ve got the image of a Ford automobile rolling backwards down a San Francisco hill because its owner forgot to curb its wheels and apply the emergency brake. Am I way off?

  5. Jay Floyd says:

    I’ve come to think that Vamp #3 (and I’ve killed him MANY times) is born of thinking that my rewards in life aren’t commensurate with my efforts. That’s a nice way of saying ‘not enough’. If I was really any good, I’d be further along in X, Y or Z.

    Thank goodness it’s bullshit.

    • And you will kill it many more times in the future, I’m sure. I don’t think mine is something I will ever kill with any sort of permanency. The best I can do is keep it at bay for an indeterminate time.

      By the way, you really are good. You really, really are.

  6. That third vampire lives here with me, I think. I hope you can get rid of the bastard. For all of us he afflicts.

    • The problem with Vampire #3 is that he’s a highly personalized one, much like the old Roman household gods. It is up to each of us to rid ourselves of our own. My best advice to you is to stare it in the face and yell ” Go **** yourself, you ******-******* bastard!” Do it with garlic-laced breath.

      And then have someone close to you tell you how wonderful you are.

      Please let me know if this works.

  7. not so much a commenter... says:

    but I have enjoyed your writing so much since discovering your blog earlier this year and wanted to thank you….for this post especially. Suffice to say that this post tipped the scales for me and compelled me to get over my commenting phobia to offer my gratitude. And now, as I’ve deleted and re-written the last two sentences oy! how many times, I dash back to the battle against vampire #1 (#3 is on hiatus until the next semester begins).

    • Dear “not so much…”

      I’m very happy you managed to overcome your commenting phobia long enough to send me this one, and I thank you deeply for it. It really, truly helps to know that there are people who read and enjoy what I’m doing. Probably because I like what I’m doing. Except when the ***-ing vampire is hanging about. Best of luck fighting off yours next semester.

      Cheers-and-thank-you,

      Michael

  8. SMITH BITES says:

    you know i’m a blog stalker and not often a blog commenter . . . that being said . . . i think Vampire #3 makes his rounds and his having babies all over the internet . . . because honey, he has taken up residence here in the midwest . . . yeah, go f*** yourself Vampire #3 . . . we’re so done w/you . . .

  9. bailey says:

    I *love* your writing. I came here originally, I think, because you were featured on “I live here SF”. I stay subscribed to your blog because of the writing. Please, please ignore the damned vampires.

    • Thank you very much, Bailey. I love I Live Here: SF and the woman behind it– she’s marvelous.

      And I’m doing my best with the blood suckers, but their capes and fangs are so shiny, they’re hard to ignore.

  10. penandra says:

    Michael: Your vampires wait until 4:00 a.m. to swarm? Mine usually arrive at about 2:23 a.m. (aren’t digital clocks just delightful?!?!) and have all kinds of things to say.

    My friend Gayle shared a story with me about talking back to her vampires — she was selling her house and her vampires woke her up in the middle of the night to tell her everything that could go wrong with the sale, if there even was a sale! She said she just started telling them everything that could go right. So, of course, the vampires responded with “Yeah! Like that’s gonna’ happen!” To which Gayle replied, “Well, it makes as much sense as what YOU are trying to tell me!” (Her house sold the following weekend )

    I have been contemplating starting a blog and I also do some online fiction . . . my vampires have been hard at work letting me know that I’m not good enough, that I’ve spent too many years as a technical writer, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Luckily, I know that I’m not unique, I’m not alone, I know others with similar vampires, I now have a recipe to stave them off — AND (thanks to your recipe and Gayle’s example) I can talk back to them (with garlic breath! ;-)

    Thanks for your great post — BTW, I’ve shared the link to your blog with several folks and will be sure that they hear about this one as well.

    • I never thought there’d be real estate market vampires, but it makes perfect sense, once I stop long enough to think about it.

      And thank you so much for passing this blog along– that means a lot to me.

  11. Sis Boom says:

    I think the extra two cloves was just what this needed. Vampires beware! I make this from time to time but it is mostly for the garlic bread thing, which I can’t resist until all the garlic is gone. Perhaps that is why I hardly ever see personal vampires?

  12. I feel you on every single vampire, although re: #2 – I remain dedicated to my goal… I write to bring about understanding, respect, world peace and rainbows (??). It’s true. If anything, I’ve learned that ya have to embrace who you are. (I worked that one out while arguing with #3 one night).

    I also particularly feel you on not being skinny enough for skinny jeans. I was once called “pretty cool for a white girl” because I didn’t peg my jeans in 7th grade. Truth was, I looked like a pear when I did, so I didn’t.

  13. Thea says:

    Hey! (waves wildly) I passed your post along — to LOTS of folks. Why? You’re such a great writer, one with a Very Particular voice.

    Take that, Vampiros of every number!

  14. Susan says:

    Hi Michael,

    I always want to give extra-special thought to my responses to an extra-special person. I just wish that you knew how much I wait for your posts and read them with such admiration for the writer. Your creativity and intelligence are so evident and appreciated! You have inspired me in so many ways.
    Please do not let vampire #3 discourage you from writing. At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, “There are good things awaiting you so hang in there and write!”

    • I love that you give extra-special thought. I can’t say I find that at all surprising, given that you are an extra-thoughtful person.

      I hope to high heaven you have it on excellent authority that good things are awaiting, because I could certainly use them.

      As always, thank you.

  15. Renee says:

    I don’t have a vampire, mine is more of a gremlin. I’m not sure if garlic will work on that bastard but I’m willing to give it a try. It looks delicious!

    I just found this blog and I’m loving it.

  16. Sharon says:

    Don’t you love it when a new fan stumbles on an old post? Your blog first caught my attention because I saw the link to “I Won’t Eat Kale” on Facebook. Since I like kale, I wanted to know why you didn’t. I mean, why would someone NOT like kale?

    What’s interesting to note, however, is the real power of this title — if I, like you, didn’t like kale, I would have still read it, but as a show of solidarity. This is because it’s good to know that other people like or don’t like the things that I do. In a way it sort of validates my opinion.

    Wanting more, I dug into your archives and was pulled in further by your other catchy titles. I was delighted when I found this post because it married 2 of my favorite subjects — food and the psychology of being human. Incidentally, vampire #3 is why I was trolling Facebook at 3 o’clock this morning. I tried really hard not to laugh out loud so as not to wake my husband, but admit the bed did shake a little.

    So, thanks for the laughs. Love your writing!

    • I love it more than you could imagine, Sharon.

      I’m especially happy that you chose to comment on this piece, because it’s something I struggle with on a near-daily basis.

      I am delighted to have you aboard. And thank you so much for taking the time to let me know you enjoy what I do.

      Ever so sincerely,

      Michael

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