Oh garlic; plant those lips upon me

by Ken Carpenter

If I have one culinary weakness in my life, it is garlic. Garlic, known for mysterious reasons since Roman times as the “stinking rose”, is nothing less than a gastronomic treasure. I used to buy it by the 48-ounce jar, minced, and heap it into everything I cook. Now I have switched to fresh, but like it in any form. There is virtually nothing it can’t make better, with the possible exception of chocolate pudding.
There are those who might disagree, for garlic ice cream is popular at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Over 100,000 people a year attend it, making it the largest food festival in America. Gilroy claims to be the garlic capitol of the world, and Will Rogers once said it was the only place in the world you could marinate a steak just by hanging it up outside.
I hope to sample their wares someday. Garlic is, as once was written, “the sovereign extract of the Earth”.
Garlic has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. It has been reputed at one time or another to cure baldness, snakebite, insomnia, rabies, and numerous other afflictions. It is recognized for its antioxidant, antibiotic and antiseptic properties, and garlic pills are sometimes prescribed to battle high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There are those who think it can reduce the size of tumors.
Some matadors think it dissuades a charging bull, and it has been used to repel mosquitoes, vampires, witches, amorous widows and crocodiles.
Come to think of it, I never met a pizza gobbling crocodile named Luigi.
To dream that there is garlic in the house is supposed to be lucky, while dreaming about eating it could mean that you will discover hidden secrets. I don’t know what it means if you dream about dancing the polka with a giant, smiling garlic clove.
Perhaps it means you are fated to meet Wayne Newton in the local pantyhose shop.
A very odd aspect of garlic history is that it has at different times been connected with both good and evil. On one hand, it is said that garlic sprouted from the spot where Satan’s left foot touched when he left the Garden of Eden. Not good. Then again, it is also used to ward off the “evil eye” in parts of Europe, and has traditionally been a crucial ingredient in anti-vampire lore.
I’ll take my chances, so flavor mine garlic. If I’m wrong, no biggie, I always had a devilish side.
Speaking of devilish, Tibetan monks are forbidden to enter the monasteries if they have eaten garlic. Why? It is quite simple really, because there has been medical, scientific and (ahem) personal studies that prove garlic is an aphrodisiac.
Monks do not like embarrassing situations, and garlic’s tendency to “inflame” is legendary. I guess if the monks robes suddenly resembled vertical tents with tent poles it might become scandalous.
I don’t know how much you have to eat to produce this condition. As much as my wife likes garlic, even she has noted how strong my dinners have been with the pungent bulb lately. Research continues.
The bubonic plague was still, well, plaguing Europe in 1772. Except for four grave-robbers from Marseilles, that is. They raided plague victim’s corpses with immunity, thanks to a trade secret, garlic-infused vinegar. They ate it, soaked their clothes in it, and breathed through rags anointed with it. There is still a garlic-vinegar known as the Vinegar of the Four Thieves.
I wonder if they were popular with the ladies.
It is beyond doubt that garlic can give you a serious case of dragon breath. You can fight it like you would any other case of halitosis, but don’t knock yourself out. If you eat enough it will still come out of your pores anyway, negating the effects of your sweetened breath.
That’s OK though, I don’t care if you smell like garlic.
Us garlicophiles have to stick together.