The 5,000 Garlic Fingers of PEI

As we all muddle through in these tough times, an old friend writes from Prince Edward Island (yes, that’s important), “Tasty as it is, I’m a little tired of eating my own cooking, I ordered a pizza and garlic fingers.” And those garlic fingers take us into the annals of regional food, in this case Atlantic Canada.

(#1) A pie of garlic fingers

The food. From Wikipedia:

Garlic fingers (known also as garlic cheese fingers) are an Atlantic Canadian dish, similar to a pizza in shape and size and made with the same type of dough. Instead of being cut in triangular slices, they are presented in thin strips, or “fingers”.

Instead of the traditional tomato sauce and toppings of a pizza, garlic fingers consist of pizza dough topped with garlic butter, parsley, and cheese, which is cooked until the cheese is melted. Bacon bits are also sometimes added.

Garlic fingers are often eaten as a side dish with pizza, and dipped in donair sauce or marinara sauce.

Wisconsin-style cheese fries: In central Wisconsin and some other parts of the state, a similar dish is served, consisting of a pizza-like, typically thin crust topped with cheese and garlic butter or a garlic-butter-like mixture. It is cut into strips and often accompanied with marinara sauce.

Called cheese fries and sometimes pizza fries or Italian fries, they are sold both in restaurants and in the frozen foods section of supermarkets.

Wait, wait! you cry, what the hell is donair sauce? From the Wikipedia entry on doner kebab / döner kebab, the rotating roasted meat that forms the cornerstone of Turkish street food and is now sold around the world as a fast food:

A variation known as donair was introduced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the early 1970s. There are competing claims about the origin, but according to Halifax resident Leo Gamoulakos, his father, Greek immigrant Peter Gamoulakos, started selling Greek-style gyros at Velos Pizza in the Halifax suburb of Bedford. It did not catch on with the public, so in 1972 he modified the customary pork and lamb recipe by using spiced ground beef, Lebanese flatbread, and inventing the distinctive sweet donair sauce made with condensed milk, vinegar, sugar, and garlic. He called it by the doner name rather than gyros, but it came to be pronounced, and spelled, as donair.

We don’t have to buy all the details of this story to accept that it probably arose from a Greek source in the Maritimes.

A recipe for garlic fingers with Maritime donair sauce from the Food Network Canada site, in my summaries:

— the finger pie:

Roll 1 500 g pkg pizza dough into a 14-inch circle; transfer it to a 15-inch pizza pan dusted with cornmeal flour; brush 1 tbs melted garlic butter over the dough; sprinkle with 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese; bake in a 450º oven until cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15 min; score with a pizza cutter as in #1.

— the donair sauce:

(#2) (photo from the allrecipes site)

Whisk together 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk,  1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 cup white vinegar in a bowl; refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Regions. The material above includes references to both Atlantic Canada and the Maritimes (the Maritime provinces). In a map (from the Liberal Dictionary):

(#3) Atlantic Canada: the three Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI) plus Newfoundland and Labrador

The title of this posting. The allusion is to The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. From Wikipedia:

(#4) Bart and Dr. Terwilliger

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a 1953 Technicolor American musical fantasy film about a boy who dreams himself into a fantasy world ruled by a diabolical piano teacher enslaving children to practice piano forever. It was the only feature film written by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. It was directed by Roy Rowland, with many uncredited takes directed by producer Stanley Kramer. The film stars Peter Lind Hayes, Mary Healy, Hans Conried, and Tommy Rettig.

[from the plot:] In [a] dream, Bart Collins [(Tommy Rettig)] is trapped at the surreal Terwilliker Institute, where the piano teacher is a madman dictator [Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried)] who has imprisoned non-piano-playing musicians. He built a piano so large that it requires Bart and 499 other boys (hence, 5,000 fingers) to play it.

5,000 garlic fingers would be an equally daunting display.

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