The National Garlic Dish of France

glass dish

I’m pretty sure that there’s sometimes a secret conspiracy around here to make me think that it’s me who is crazy. For example, I bought this little glass dish last weekend. When I brought it to the seller to pay, I said, “This is such a beautiful butter dish.”

She looked at me, then at it. Then back at me.

“Non, non, monsieur, it’s for garlic.”

When I pointed out that the cloche is way too small to enclosed a head of garlic, she said, “It’s for peeled cloves of garlic, so they don’t smell in your refrigerator.”

Scratching my head, I asked another customer who was walking by, who wasn’t privy to our conversation, for his word.

“Quick…what’s this for?” I said, thinking I would trip him up.

“Pour l’ail, monsieur! Bien sûr!

Everyone else around agreed that it’s for garlic—except me.

I mean, I ask you; who in their right mind….er…let me rephrase that…

1. Who intentionally peels more garlic than they need, then stores the rest?

2. Who around here refrigerates anything that doesn’t absolutely, positively doesn’t have to be refrigerated?

3. Can you trust the word of a group of people whose grown men who wear socks with cartoon characters on them?

When I got back to the house, I gathered all ’round, to get their opinion. I was keen on hearing what others had to say, since I seemed to be the lone voice amongst the previous folks, who insisted that it was absolutely inconceivable that anyone would possibly store anything but garlic in a dish like this.

I’m sure I don’t even need to tell you what everyone agreed it was for.

I think that does it. Either I’m nuts—or they are.

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  • August 19, 2008 5:32am

    yes it’s for garlic. I do peel more garlic than I need and store it in a similar, but not so fashionable, container. Usually, when I’m cooking baby food for my daughter I use only half or a quarter of a clove of garlic.

  • August 19, 2008 5:52am

    I guess that this confirms the stereotype about the French people and their love for garlic…

  • August 19, 2008 5:58am

    I’m french … and nuts as well :)
    If you asked me, I would have answered you “for butter of course !”
    I couldn’t just imagine a second that It would be used for garlic …
    crazy thing …

  • Job
    August 19, 2008 6:09am

    I wouldn’t have guessed it’s for garlic either. In fact i use one (almost identically) for butter…

    So, you’re not crazy it’s zuh frensj :-)

  • August 19, 2008 6:13am

    Marion: I’m printing out your answer (minus the comment about ‘being nuts’…) and taking it back to show everyone next weekend.

    Salut! ; )

  • August 19, 2008 6:23am

    My first guess would have been butter. Never heard of storing garlic in the fridge. I guess I can see the rationale…

  • August 19, 2008 6:38am

    It is indeed for garlic or for onion halves…



  • August 19, 2008 7:02am

    Definitely butter.

    Coming from the garlic capital of the world, I don’t think I’ve ever peeled cloves of garlic that I wasn’t going to use at that moment!

  • Colleen
    August 19, 2008 7:26am

    Its gorgeous!!! Would look really good on my table filled with BUTTER hehe!!! I hate keeping peeled garlic or onion!!

  • Jill
    August 19, 2008 8:05am

    chocolate definately! A sweet piece of dark chocolate displayed under glass during the meal to whet your appetite for dessert!

  • Carla
    August 19, 2008 8:28am

    I wouldn’t guess such beautiful dish would be used for garlic, but I do peel more garlic than I need and store it in a tight sealed little jar, in the fridge. It makes my life easier.

  • cj
    August 19, 2008 8:46am

    Garlic-no way, unless you want everything in your fridge to taste like garlic. And jesus, who doesn’t throw in that extra peeled clove to the dish, rather than wasting it?

  • August 19, 2008 8:50am

    Butter, but then I am not French or nuts, at least I hope so. I have never peeled more garlic than I needed.

  • August 19, 2008 8:55am

    I’m with you David — about peeling garlic as needed and the disturbing propensity towards cartoon embroidered socks.

    While the French may be adamant about what the dish is designed for, you can use it any way you please. Jill’s chocolate suggestion sounds like the perfect solution. Five bucks says you display a truffle in it and you’ll get corrected.

  • Ramona
    August 19, 2008 9:20am

    Butter, for sure! I don’t keep my garlic in the fridge….it’s in the pantry, like it should be. ;-)

    Glad you finally found your butter dish! I was getting ready to send you one in the mail…..didn’t you say that you can’t find them there, and that when asked they say that ‘they make those for the Americans’??


  • August 19, 2008 9:27am

    So what kind of containers do they have for their stinky cheeses?

  • Lu
    August 19, 2008 9:36am

    I’m not French. But I am nuts, too. Anyway, so I have one of these little covered dishes from, maybe Sur La Table or Crate and Barrel, from several years back. I always thought it was for butter, but now I am wondering is it a reproduction of the so-called garlic keeper?? Hmmm.

  • ageekymom
    August 19, 2008 9:43am

    Compromise! Keep roasted garlic butter in it!

  • August 19, 2008 9:48am

    Brian: There’s actually a Tefal cave à fromage on can buy to store cheese in the fridge. I don’t have one since it was take up valuable fridge space, that I need to ice cream custards
    : )

    Lu: Oddly, we were visiting some American friends in the southwest of France and they were serving drinks in those jam jars that Americans have adopted as drinking glasses.

    Romain thought it was really, really weird that we used them in such as way, and refused to drink from one.

    So far:

    Garlic 3

    Butter 7

    Roasted garlic butter 1

    Chocolate 2 (which wasn’t really an option, but I’ll allow it!)

  • August 19, 2008 10:08am

    I have just one word to say:


    Proof, non?

    Use it for butter. Any group that pushes around dirty rags with a stick to “clean” their floors has got some strange ideas on the proper use of things.

    (Oh, and cleaned Nutella jars were my husband’s favorite drinking glasses, and we still have one that has avoided breaking that he uses regularly, even though we’re back home in the States.)

  • August 19, 2008 10:18am

    Make that 9 for butter then.
    With these mini French fridges who has the extra room for storing garlic?
    Best solution I have found for storing cheese is a hemp bag – absorbs the moisture so the cheese lasts 3 times as long, and no stinky cheese smell to knock you out when you open the fridge door :-)

  • sperrone
    August 19, 2008 10:19am

    I’m chiming in another vote for butter. I believe I’ve seen those dishes in a pottery barn catalog on a beautifully set dining table, each place setting with its own glass enclosed butter dish. The French probably wash their garlic in soap and water as well. I think you should consider using this whole experience as your impetus to move back to America.

  • August 19, 2008 10:37am

    If it’s for garlic cloves what’s the point of the dome? The dome should be for covering something that sticks to the dish – i.e. butter.

  • Chacha
    August 19, 2008 10:58am

    If you want to use it for butter…then rock the butter in whatever that thing is! It won’t matter if people think you’re crazy b/c you know some of the most genius artists were considered crazy while they were alive. Hopefully, it won’t take that long for others to realize how crazy genius you are!

  • August 19, 2008 10:58am

    I’m from france and i would have said ” pour le beurre “, too. I bet this is some kind of regional use ?

    About the jam jars, i must admit i would have had the same reaction than your partner. It’s a bit odd here to use jars as a glass to drink. You probably would feel the same way if you were asked to drink in a vegetable tin can or in the mixer bowl…

    I think I would have asked what the heck did happened to the glasses in the house :D . (or probably I would’nt dare to ask, and just keep this as a WTF moment, for myself !)

  • Gert Van De Slijke
    August 19, 2008 11:01am

    the dome is to make sure that the odor doesn’t travel too far in your fridge I would think?

    However, I’ve also used to for butter, never for garlic.

    I might just try it, since I do tend to peel too much garlic from time to time.

  • August 19, 2008 11:02am

    (“what the heck happenned”, not “did happenned” – sorry.)

    (oh, what about that checkbox that doesn’t remember personal informations ? (yes, i’m lazy !))

  • Anu
    August 19, 2008 11:51am

    I would have guessed butter but I think using it for garlic is quite ingenious. I hate peeling those little cloves and it would be a relief to have a little dish of them in the refrigerator at all times.

  • Susan
    August 19, 2008 12:23pm

    It’s for butter. At least how it’s sold in the US. Perfect if you’re mad enough to churn your own.

    My current favorite drinking glass is a curvy little mustard jar (French) with a tinted pedestal, and I will never believe that Amora didn’t intend it to be used as such.

  • latenac
    August 19, 2008 12:27pm

    I would have thought butter. If I accidentally peel one or two too many garlic cloves, they go in what I’m cooking. Whose refrigerator is so organized that a little dish like that wouldn’t have it’s top knocked off in it and thus smell up the whole fridge with garlic?

  • Jessica
    August 19, 2008 12:54pm

    I work at a five diamond restaurant stateside and we use something very similar. The bottom of the containers we have are ceramic and we fill them with butter. They are then topped with a beautiful polished silver lid and served to the guests this way with our bread. I can’t imagine using this for cloves of garlic, seems a waste.

  • August 19, 2008 12:58pm

    I would definitely use it for butter, no matter what anyone else said.

  • Susan
    August 19, 2008 1:11pm

    I have one of those dishes..I won it (?) at a Princess House crystal party. Even the Princess House Rep didn’t know what it was for specifically. Personally..I keep my wickes that go to my various oil lamps in it. They’ve stayed quite fresh!

  • Haley
    August 19, 2008 2:46pm

    Wouldn’t garlic cloves lose their potency if you peeled them ahead of time? I have to say they are for butter, or maybe for tiny pieces of cheese, as I have seen containers like that only much larger for serving cheeses.

    The jam jars that you linked to really do look like drinking glasses. If they had screw-on lids, I might have been hesitant to drink from them, but otherwise, I would be fine with them.

  • Diamond ring? Emerald or Ruby would do too. No need to keep in the fridge either.

    If it has to be food, I vote for a perfect candied fruit (Fruit glace – that’s “e accent aigu”, I can’t seem to be able to make the accent…). I like the chocolate idea too.

  • August 19, 2008 3:31pm

    I am half French and love garlic. If I peel too much for my recipe-I eat it! Its good for the cholesterol ratings and blood pressure. It never ever goes to waste-and would never end up back in the fridge. Interestingly my grandfather was all French and hated garlic. Maybe because he never really knew what to do with it?

  • August 19, 2008 3:40pm

    I’m happy to know that someone else finds it ridiculous that grown men wear socks with Bart Sinmpson and Disney characters on them under their impeccable French suits…

    Here’s hoping your garlic never stinks up your fridge again…

  • August 19, 2008 3:51pm

    I think I would only peel garlic ahead of time if I was making a large meal and would be using the garlic in several dishes. Otherwise it stays, protected in its papery husk, in the pantry (also known as on top of my refrigerator) until I need a clove or two. I say you can use the dish for whatever you want!

  • August 19, 2008 3:52pm

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing! Especially at the cartoon socks that my husband still wears to this day – ugh!! So fresh eggs stay in the pantry while the garlic keeps cool in the fridge – seems kind of backwards, non? I say, use it for butter and only take it out when there aren’t any French people over.

  • August 19, 2008 4:13pm

    I’m french and I’m sure it’s for butter. Garlic in the fridge, they must be mad …
    By the way, it must be something with the name : my David can’t stand socks with cartoons characters on it :-)

  • david
    August 19, 2008 4:55pm

    I say you fill it with old-school Ponds Cold Cream and put it on your table de toilette.

  • good enough cook
    August 19, 2008 6:03pm

    Maybe it’s for storing excess peeled garlic on the counter, and the lady who sold it to you, hearing your accent, assumed that you refrigerated everything and so would only understand the concept of odors spreading if she offered a familiar context?

    Me, I’d use if for onions. We always seem to have a smelly onion half kicking around from one meal to the next.

  • Tony Brush
    August 19, 2008 6:04pm

    In the 70’s, we sold thousands of these at the Pottery Barn as….individual caviar servers. The thick glass held the cold temperature and customers bought 4, 6, 8(they were really cheap) at a time. I wonder now how many were actually used as caviar servers!

  • August 19, 2008 6:59pm

    You’re not nuts… but many french families would keep their butter in a clay cloche on the kitchen counter, not in the fridge. That being said I would have never guessed that the dish was for garlic. I grew up in France and I’ve never seen it used there or seen people store garlic cloves ahead of time. Most families I knew, including mine, had a garlic braid hanging somewhere near by that would get mutilated over time (one clove at a time). Must be a new thing…or else I am nuts too.:-)

  • August 19, 2008 7:38pm

    I’d say BUTTER!!! And I only peel the amount of garlic cloves I need. I love the dish though and wouldn’t mind having one for a conversation piece as This is a garlic dish in France, but I keep butter in it??? What do you think?

  • August 19, 2008 7:51pm

    hmm bizarre. I don’t think I’ll tell my very southern and set in her ways grandmother about this. Last week I was visiting her when she asked me if I thought the french were rude because that is what all her friends say.

    I explained that Americans are often offended because the French aren’t friendly in the same way that we are. I used the example of standing in line at a grocery store, Americans don’t think twice about striking up a conversation with the person next to them (which I find bizarre personally) but the French would probably keep to themselves.

    At this point she looked at me like the French were nuts and the rudest people in the world to not want to share their lives with everyone buying groceries and I decided to just give up.

    erm that’s really long. I need to work on summarizing

  • August 19, 2008 9:21pm

    But it really does look like those little butter dishes with the raised inner rim. And cartoon character socks? I thought I was throwing caution to the wind when I wore a subtly patterned argyle. Good grief…

  • Lu
    August 19, 2008 10:30pm

    May one post twice on the same topic? OK, so I am LOLOLOLing at your comment with the usage tally (really…my husband said, “what’s so funny?”) and also enjoyed Romain’s comment about the jam jars. A big seller at Crate and Barrel, no less! Speaking of R, where’s the much-awaited Caesar Salad recipe? :-) (I have saved my French jam jars for shaking up dressings, etc – but, mais non, not for wine.) Jamais.

  • Cadence
    August 19, 2008 11:02pm

    Actually, it looks like a miniature version of my mother’s cheeseball dome… although I’d use it for butter any day (chocolate doesn’t last long enough around here to sit and look pretty).

  • August 19, 2008 11:05pm

    i keep peeled/chopped garlic/onion halves either in a plastic airtight container or wrap it with cling wrap lol

    if i had that super gorgeous garlic/butter storage thingy, i’d be using it to store a diamond ring, perhaps? hehe

  • August 19, 2008 11:43pm

    I’ve definitely seen things like those before, but labelled “garlic” with pictures of garlics so that it’s clear what it’s for. Anyway, it’s not for peeled garlic, you put your unpeeled garlic in there so the smell doesn’t spread to the rest of your kitchen/pantry. Doesn’t make sense why it’s clear though, usually they’d be opaque so they’d block out the light and your garlic won’t sprout.

  • coffeedownunder
    August 20, 2008 12:55am

    I would have said butter dish also… a quick search of the internet would also suggest similar:
    Example 1
    Example 2
    But then again, I am Australian, so I’ll say it’s a bottle opener?

  • August 20, 2008 1:59am

    I do not own any jam jar drinking glasses. Just sayin’.

  • August 20, 2008 4:29am

    Butter. Definitely.

    I would never ever thought of garlic. No no and no.

    We also have similar but slightly bigger containers for keeping slices of lemon.

    But I live in Poland so that’s so very not French way of doing things.

  • August 20, 2008 5:31am

    i’m french and i have never seen or heard of a garlic cloche. must have been a store for strange memorabilia you went into…. ;-)

  • Sue
    August 20, 2008 6:37am

    My initial thought was butter, too, but I prefer Jill’s answer.

    Chocolate is usually my answer for anything and everything!

  • August 20, 2008 7:43am

    I would never guess it was for garlic either, and would certainly use it for butter! It really is a very pretty dish for butter!!
    Your blog is great, I have been having a good time reading your posts, wonderful job!
    (Not to mention the ice cream book… oh my, the best!!)

  • Linda
    August 20, 2008 8:30am

    Now you have pictures from coffeedownunder to use as proof! Only thing is you’re supposed to have one for each place setting…

    I bought some of those goofy jam jar drinking glasses back in the day. I used to drink cheap wine from them…

  • Narelle
    August 20, 2008 8:49am

    Bet you can’t believe how many comments you got for this blog hey David!

    The winner by far has to be the comment by ageekymom – saying to compromise by keeping garlic butter in it! Excellent answer.

    I wouldn’t of been able to resist buying it either – just too dam cute.

  • August 20, 2008 8:59am

    Narelle: I could just imagine the response if I showed the really, really great stuff I brought home from the flea market!

  • Eileen
    August 20, 2008 9:23am

    I’ve had one exactly like yours for 15 years now, and it NEVER occurred to me to use it for garlic. Will you show us the REALLY great stuff you found at the flea market? Please?

  • August 20, 2008 9:53am

    In a reverse twist on jam jars for drinking glasses, my grandmother made jelly and put it up in drinking glasses with a wax seal on top. Usually Coca-cola glasses.

    And….I keep my extra garlic, unpeeled, in the butter compartment of my refrigerator!

  • August 20, 2008 10:48am

    I’m with you on this one. I would have had no idea that this was for garlic. While I generally use a healthy dose of garlic in most of my cooking (no vampires chez moi), I chop or mince only what I need and store the rest unpeeled in the cupboard. I always asumed this was the way that eveyone did it.

    Perhaps I’ll pick up a butter (ahemmm…I mean garlic) dish when I’m in Paris next year. It’s always nice to pick up gifts with a little local flavor to them.

  • August 20, 2008 12:14pm

    Either way it is a lovely dish!

  • August 20, 2008 2:02pm

    You are quite funny. I would say butter also but I like the garlic butter answer.
    I should take some lessons in “compromising”

  • judi suttles
    August 20, 2008 2:08pm

    That is a butter dish!!! I have one exactly like it that I inheirited from ma belle mere.
    She always used it for butter, as do I. I guess I’m nuts too!

  • nanciejane
    August 20, 2008 4:42pm

    I have something similar. I keep kosher salt in it on the back of my stove. Works perfectly!

  • August 20, 2008 4:56pm

    Butter, definitely.

    But it’s your socks comment that has me rolling–reminds me of my last job, where I worked with a Frenchman. The boss was also horrified by his taste in socks, and declared that Tuesdays everyone must copy him and wear white socks with their work attire, preferably with some silliness on them. Everyone found it immensely entertaining, except of course for the frenchman, who was baffled by it all.

  • Tony Brush
    August 20, 2008 7:11pm

    It is an individual Caviar Server! We old-timers know these things! Like your blog.

  • August 20, 2008 7:29pm

    Goodness if it is for garlic that is odd but then again maybe it would be nice to have peeled garlic in the fridge.

  • August 20, 2008 10:36pm

    My first thought was the same as Tony Brush’s…for caviar. It just occured to me it might be used for butter as well when you mentioned it. It looks too posh to put garlic in, haha.

    If I peel more garlic then I need, it goes into the ever ready, free garlic container–my mouth and tummy. Garlics don’t last long in my household!

  • Karen
    August 20, 2008 11:29pm

    I’m not French, so I don’t get the idea of peeling more garlic than you need at the moment … but then again I don’t get those containers of pre-peeled garlic they sell in supermarkets here in the U.S. either.

    It looks like a butter dish to me, but I like the idea of putting caviar in it as others suggested. For me it looks like it would hold just enough olives for a midnight snack. I love it and will have to look for one when I am in Paris next year.

    And .. I think that head of garlic looks even better than the garlic dish. I wish I had garlic like that…

  • Goh Lee Jee
    August 21, 2008 3:42am

    The garlic glass container you featured is lovely. May I know can I buy a similar one as yours on-line? Thank you in advance for your reply.

    Yours sincerely
    Goh Lee Jee (from Singapore)

  • August 21, 2008 4:37am

    Goh: Since it’s vintage, try Cookin’, although they don’t have an online shop. So you’ll have to call Judy and ask her. (So old-fashioned!)

    Don’t know if you’ll have to ask for a butter dish…or one for garlic, though!
    : )

  • August 21, 2008 11:12am

    Folding Snoopy socks this afternoon, I put some thought into this issue. It’s a cloche for a miniature cake.

  • August 21, 2008 3:59pm

    I would surmise that, after just buying two Japanese books on Parisian kitchens and with the French obsession of labeling every jar and canister possible with the correct contents i.e. sucre, sel, poivre, farine, cafe, etc. that you can put whatever you choose in the damn thing, since there is no defining label on it.
    I would love to paint it, but then I’m nuts.
    Go figure. :)

  • August 21, 2008 4:44pm

    Williams-Sonoma sells almost the exact same dish as a butter dish, and I love mine. I would think pre-peeled garlic should be kept in a more airtight container than this. I am guilty of the pre-peeling thing when I know I’ll be cooking up a storm. Here in the US the markets even sell pre-peeled garlic now. Ahhhh the humanity!

  • August 21, 2008 6:49pm

    Butter most definitely. If you are saving peeled garlic you aren’t using enough!

  • Linda H
    August 21, 2008 11:17pm

    Butter, definitely. I have several, which were sold as individual butter containers for the table.
    How about split the difference and use them for garlic butter?

  • Linda H
    August 21, 2008 11:32pm

    Jam jars with plastic lids sold by Crate and Barrel are common here and used to store leftovers and also for drinks. The lids aren’t tight-fitting enough to seal in jam for long storage.
    Sorry garlic butter had already been suggested. I hadn’t read all the comments.

  • August 23, 2008 10:55am

    Shallots of course…..

    …..or Butter.

  • Pamela
    August 23, 2008 4:56pm

    I keep kosher salt in mine. Purchased at the Container Store. Very inexpensive—only about five dollars. My sister bought one for the same purpose. Keeps the salt clean. I have the smaller size.

  • August 23, 2008 5:03pm

    Pamela: Wow. I never thought of putting salt in there. But since there’s so much soot in Paris, in the summer when my windows are open, I started draping something over my little bowls of salt.

    Will have to look for a few more of these butter/garlic/onion/roasted garlic/chocolate/, and now /salt/ dishes for all my salts that I have scattered about.
    Merci! : )

  • August 24, 2008 4:59pm

    French here!
    same as Marion at the top of comments: WHAT? we have this kind of object in france? wow…. never heard of it, I swear. For butter, yes. For garlic…? Really?
    But it makes sense though, and I do peel more garlic than I use sometimes, and then store it in the fridge. Never thought that was odd before
    (shoot, I AM odd….!!)

  • Janice Kelly
    August 25, 2008 6:45pm

    Greetings from Canada.
    I bought one of these dishes in our superbly cusine-rich Montreal at a trendy kitchen boutique.
    However, I bought it as a butter dish. A little on the small side but kind of a winsome addition to the dinner table. Mind you, it’s a pain to cut butter to fit.
    After reading your report DL, I discovered that last night, I had two cut half cloves of garlic left after making bruschetta. So I plunked them in a small ramekin. After reading your report, I hauled out my erstwhile butter dish and it is now my garlic dome of honour. Vive la France It works like a charm and looks very stylish.

  • August 25, 2008 10:45pm

    So if it’s for garlic, it would still only hold a few cloves. So are they suggesting you peel enough for your dish and then a few extra to use next time… only next time you have to peel a few more to replenish the few you just used from your dish??? Seems nuts enough to work.

    Although I would have said butter in a shot :)

  • August 26, 2008 1:51am

    I was also thinking it might be charming to pop a little round of chèvre in there.

    It wouldn’t be all that practical to cut, but it’d sure be cute : )_

  • trudy monk
    August 28, 2008 5:08am

    Eightyf…nseven comments on an upsidedown aquarium!

    Eightyseven times “David, you’re not nuts”. But can you trust people who PEEL garlic?

  • September 3, 2008 10:13am

    I would have voted with you on butter… but then, like you, I don’t peel more garlic than I need!

  • September 18, 2008 11:58am

    I have the same dish. I got it in Quebec and over there, the lady told me it was for candles… I always used it for butter anyways ;-)

  • carmen efferson
    October 28, 2008 5:21pm

    OK, I love shopping at Marshalls because deals show up from time to time. I came across a SET (4) of these pretty glass “BUTTER DISHES” … My grandmother used the larger crystal version for whole sticks of butter.