The New York Times ran a piece in its Dining section this week that examined the history of gyro meat. While there are a handful of men that claim to have invented the method for mass producing the peculiar meat cone that is shaved onto pita bread to become a gyro, the article arrives at the conclusion that it was one John Garlic from Wisconsin that truly invented the process.
Inspired by this larger-than-life character--a man with an amazingly fitting name and a unique interest in dolphins--I created an "artist's interpretation" of Mr. John Garlic. As well, I've included some choice excerpts from the Times article...
There is little about John Garlic in news archives, aside from a 1978 story in The Milwaukee Sentinel, in which a John J. Garlic discusses his plans to keep trained dolphins in a former municipal pool he’d bought in the city and wanted to turn into a restaurant with a kind of Sea World sideshow.
Unfortunately, Mr. Garlic is no longer around to discuss matters; he died of kidney failure in 1994. But his wife, Margaret Garlic, can provide answers.
So, who was John Garlic?
“He was this big guy,” she said, “like 6 foot 2 inches tall, dark curly hair, couple hundred pounds. A former Marine. A super intelligent, super entertaining man. My brother used to say, ‘When John Garlic enters a room, you know you’re going to have fun.’ ”
And he was Greek?
“No, no,” she said. “He was Jewish.”
Where did he get the idea?
“From me,” Ms. Garlic said. “One afternoon, I was watching ‘What’s My Line?’ and there was a Greek restaurant owner on the show, and he did this demonstration, carving meat off a gyro. I immediately called an operator and asked for the number of a Greek restaurant in New York. The owner I got on the phone said, ‘Go to Chicago, there’s a huge Greek community.’ ” At the time, Mr. Garlic was a Cadillac salesman, in his late 30s, but he quickly saw his future in gyro cones. After finding a Chicago chef willing to share a recipe, the couple rented space in a sausage plant and cranked out history’s first assembly-line gyro cones. They were a hit. More...