Great Long-Term Investments in Life

September 17th, 2011
in contributors

by Elliott Morss

garlic Editor's note: With all the turmoil in investment markets in recent months it is helpful to think about things with truly lasting value. GEI contributor Elliott Morss shares some thoughts on two of those: wine and garlic.

wine-this-way-up-bottle Introduction

It is common to measure one’s affluence by income or wealth. But eating garlic and drinking wine are two of life’s greatest pleasures, so I offer two other measures of affluence worth considering: the number of garlic cloves you have skinned and the number of wine bottles you have opened. I feel quite fortunate in that during my life, I have skinned more than 40,000 garlic cloves and uncorked at least 7,500 wine bottles. By now, one would hope that I have developed some proficiency in doing both….

Follow up:

Uncorking Wine Bottles

This is probably a dying art. Cheaper ways to seal wine than by using cork are being developed. The only complaint with the new methods I have heard took place while tasting wine at the Achaval-Ferrer winery. Their vintners say the new caps are too good – a little oxidation should take place during wine maturation. Whatever, corks will be around for a while yet. And there are better and worse ways to uncork a wine bottle.

Whenever you order wine at a restaurant, the waiter makes a show about opening the bottle. They all use the same instrument. On one side, it has a small knife to cut through the plastic seal. On the other, it has the corkscrew, and a small metal extension that is placed against the rim of the bottle. The cork is removed by using the handle to pry it out of the bottle.

irst, cutting through the plastic seal of the bottle with a knife is a tricky business. I recently observed a hostess cut her finger using the knife. The knife slid off the throat of the bottle and cut the finger being used to keep the bottle steady. Admittedly, the hostess was pre-occupied in conversation. But there is no need to use a knife for this. Instead, the implement pictured below should be used.


Source:  Google Images


The wheels cut through the plastic seal, and your fingers are never in danger of being cut.

But there is a far more serious problem in using the wine opener pictured above. Look at the metal piece in the lower left that goes against the rim of the bottle. It is very small. And in prying out the cork, all the pressure will go on a very small section of the rim. Rims, under such pressure, can crack. And if they do, pieces of glass can fall into the bottle. This happened to me on several occasions and I have watched it happen in restaurants.

Once again, what is the point in using such a tool when better ones are available? You want an opener that applies equal pressure on all parts of the rim. You should use an opener with handles or a screw top or both (such as one pictured below).

Source:  Google Images

One other point about a cork remover: the coil that goes into the cork. There are good and bad coils. Rather than getting a good anchor in the cork, the cheap coils are narrow and cut through the cork. Get an opener with a thick and rounded coil.

I know, there are other types of openers. But I am a traditionalist.

Skinning Garlic

Whereas there is a certain anticipation/excitement in opening a bottle of wine, skinning garlic is just work. Is it worth it? After all, one can now get skinned garlic in most markets. For me, the taste is not the same so I will continue to peel my own garlic. But how?

The first step is to get garlic heads with large cloves. The larger the cloves, the less time it will take. Next, how to get the skin off? You could use a paring knife. No, this takes too much time. Several years back, rubber tubes (pictured below) came into vogue. For these, you put the cloves inside, press down, thereby loosening the skins.

Source:  Google Images

The current rage with TV chefs is to smash the blade of their knives down on the cloves. Just as with the rubber tubes, this will deform the clove and split the skin. But I use ceramic rather than metal knives (ceramic knives are sharper). Ceramic knives are also brittle and therefore can snap, so I am uneasy about using the “smash the garlic with the knife” approach.

Several years back, I had dinner with a friend who grows garlic. He also uses a lot of it in cooking. His approach? Use a meat pounder (pictured below).

Source:  Google Images

For me, the meat pounder works best. One other point about garlic: the root end is often large and tough. Cut it off!

Concluding Thoughts

Financial markets will rise and fall.  Banks will be allowed to make risky bets with our deposits.  But as long as I can skin garlic and open wine bottles, life will be great!

Related Articles


Marketing Strategies of the Southern hemisphere Wine Producers by Elliott Morss

Other articles on wine by Elliott Morss

About the Author

elliott-morss-photo1Elliott Morss has a broad background in international finance and economics. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy from The Johns Hopkins University and has taught at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Boston University, Brandeis and the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires. During his career he worked in the Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF with assignments in more than 45 countries. In addition, Elliott was a principle in a firm that became the largest contractor to USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and co-founded (and was president) of the Asia-Pacific Group with investments in Cambodia, China and Myanmar. He has co-authored seven books and published more than 50 professional journal articles. Elliott writes at his blog Morss Global Finance.

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