There wasn't any need to contact the Dorchester Crime Unit at District C-11 HQ, but while we were away last week a thief broke into a certain Savin Hill apartment. Losses were negligible, maybe sixty cents, but the circumstances are confounding enough for commentary.
Though a large Vietnamese contingent has settled in this section of Dorchester, the neighborhood has deep Irish-American roots. The local restaurants and the smells wafting out of neighborhood kitchens confirms this. The cuisine tends to shy away from sharp flavors. Spice racks are typically stocked with iodized salt and factory-ground black pepper. Maureen Shea once told me that freshly ground pepper is too spicy and she never understood how people could eat it. "It's something fancy they do in the Back Bay and that's why I never eat out there," she said. Aside from these two staples, there is usually also a jar of caraway seeds to knock the winds out of boiled cabbage. Garlic? That's something the Eye-talians in the North End and Eastie eat, but not real Dorchesterites.
Before we went on vacation last week, we dutifully ate all the leftovers, leaving the cupboard bare until our return. One thing that was left, however, were two heads of garlic that rested in a dish on the counter. These heads of garlic were the target of the thievery that took place in our absence.
Despite the long-established, cartoon paradigm, mice don't really crave cheese. In fact, if you are setting traps, most people recommend using peanut butter as bait, though I've often heard gum drops are equally effective. To my knowledge, no one has ever recommended putting a garlic clove in a mousetrap, but it seems that one mouse has developed a taste for this cornerstone of Mediterranean cooking. Over the course of eight days a mouse devoured two heads of garlic leaving only the empty, papery skins.
How do we know it was a mouse and not some other intruder? I don't need to be a part-time private eye to crack this case and finger the perp. There were garlicky mouse droppings all around the scene of the crime. The problem is, this has to be an out-of-town job. What self-respecting Dot mouse would develop a taste for garlic? The answer is that it's not possible. Two theories:
1. Knowing we would be out of town, a certain mus musculus hopped the Blue Line out of Orient Heights and after several transfers on the MBTA, made his way to JFK/UMASS station for a garlic binge. He or she was sloppy about leaving evidence but hotfooted it back to home base before we returned to catch him red-handed with full cheeks.
2. A North End rodent tired of Haymarket scraps hopped the Orange Line and transferred to the Red at Downtown Crossing.
The only other alternative, Dot-on-Dot crime, is unthinkable. Needing some garlic for the first home-cooked meal in a week, I resigned myself, as a victim, to stop by the Shaw's at Harbor Point to restock my garlic supply. A regretful end to a perfect vacation, but, really, I needed to do some grocery shopping anyway.