"Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant." Cervantes, Don Quixote (1614)
Peasant I am, then!
When I was in culinary school, we were taught to start nearly every savory dish with the
almighty trilogy of clarified butter, garlic and shallots. We would spend countless hours
peeling and mincing garlic by hand, most often with our chef's knives. I would go home
reeking of garlic, hoping my husband and two small daughters, wouldn’t mind.
"No one is indifferent to garlic. People either love it or hate it, and most good cooks seem to belong in the
first group." - Faye Levy
Once our class took over running the restaurant, we would encounter specific requests
from customers; no sauce, no salt, leave off the olives -and things of that nature. One night,
however, the maître d' walked in and inquired of the chefs on the line which dishes were made
without garlic. The normally bustling kitchen came to an immediate standstill as we all turned to
stare, open-mouthed, at this man and his ludicrous notion. Our professor looked confused for a
mere moment then turned abruptly and started barking orders. Whatever this customer would
be served, it would be fresh - but sadly - to my palate, at least - tasteless.
"There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving." Leo Buscaglia
I cannot imagine asking for a dish without garlic; in fact, there is hardly a savory dish I make
- no matter what the recipe states - without the addition of garlic, and when I realize it is
absent from the recipe, I always wonder why.
It is fundamental to cooking; it is both complex and simple, making it a truly
indispensable food. Food? Yes, FOOD; not herb, accompaniment, spice or seasoning.
Garlic is, in and of itself, a highly desirable and much loved food. Italian, French, and German
food would be nothing without it. Aioli would cease to exist. The travesty that the world would
be without garlic is unfathomable. A day without garlic is like a day without air…if you don’t
agree, that’s OK, I’ll forgive you. After all, we can’t all be right, can we?
“It is not really an exaggeration to say that peace and happiness begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking.” X. Marcel Boulestin
The history of garlic dates back to anywhere between 4000 and 6000 years ago, depending on which source you are using. I would love to think that garlic was growing right alongside the tomatoes and olives that I dream were the first vegetation that sprung from this Earth. Though it may not have been eaten at first (some wouldn’t touch it beyond medicinal purposes), and though some may think it to be “stinking” (poor misguided Henri Leclerc) - I, however am of like mind with Louis Diat: “Without garlic I simply would not care to live.” Louis Diat (1885-1958)
I’ll not bore you with details of the full history - you can find that for yourself in a simple Google search
- I will, however, share a recipe and a few more quotes with you.
Garlic Soup with Chicken
1 whole chicken--cut up
2 carrots--peeled and chopped finely
2 stalks celery--chopped finely
1 large onion--diced fine
1 whole head garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
Chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
10 cloves garlic--peeled
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Simmer together chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in enough water to cover.
When chicken is cooked, remove it and skim fat from broth.
Simmer broth, reducing it by about 1/3.
Scoop out unpeeled garlic cloves with a slotted spoon or spider.
Squeeze garlic from cloves, (it should be very soft and easy to do) and puree.
In a pan, saute the 10 peeled cloves in butter.
When lightly browned, add flour and a little broth and stir with a wire whip until smooth.
Pour this mixture into the broth, add pureed garlic, and stir.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup.
Sprinkle with freshly choped parsley before serving.
*(posted in several different versions across the web)
“Provençal cooking is based on garlic. The air in Provence is impregnated with the
aroma of garlic, which makes it very healthful to breathe. Garlic is the main seasoning
in bouillabaisse and in the principal sauces of the region. A sort of mayonnaise is made
with it by crushing it in oil, and this is eaten with fish and snails. The lower classes in
Provence often lunch on a crust of bread sprinkled with oil and rubbed with garlic.”
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine
“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”
First Published at Cooking with Anne, September 13, 2007