(July 19, 2019) Gastronomy is a field of many facets and limiting one’s education to cookery is a pity.
A chef must balance their repertoire of skills if success is to be achieved.
That being said, history plays a fundamental role in how one approaches their culinary point of view. The attempt to derive inspiration from the past is as old as culture itself.
This week we will take a detour from conventionalism and discuss the medicinal uses of garlic that date back to the beginning of recorded antiquity.
The small but pungent vegetable is rich in tradition and worth the time for review.
According to an article, “Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic” by Richard Rivlin, the earliest known references to garlic suggest the fragrant plant was a daily diet of many Egyptians.
It was particularly given to the working class involved with heavy labor, as in the building of the pyramids. This not only holds true for the Egyptians but is a reoccurring theme throughout early history.
Garlic was given to the laboring classes, presumably to maintain and increase their strength, thereby enabling them to work longer and be more productive.
In ancient Chinese medicine, garlic was prescribed to aid respiration, digestion and diarrhea. Garlic was also utilized to treat depression.
Chinese chefs are partial to garlic and maybe for good reason.
Garlic has been associated with the healing process in India from the time of the first available written records. Rivlin suggests the three ancient medical traditions, Tibbi, Unani and Auryvedic, incorporated garlic into the healing process associated with heart disease and arthritis.
If we skip ahead on our timetable, we will learn that garlic became available in Europe after the Roman legions moved north.
During Medieval times, knowledge of the therapeutic use of garlic was expanded and developed by way of the monks.
Rivlin notes that the leading text of the middle ages, the Hortulus manuscript, includes detailed descriptions of garlic growing in clusters and their wondrous powers.
Believe it or not, but the Renaissance with all its pageantry and cultural rebirth, was a period in time known for medical use of plants.
A leading physician of the 16th century, Pietro Masttioli of Siena, wrote widely, and his work was translated into several other languages.
He prescribed garlic for digestive orders, infestations with worms and renak (relating to the kidney) disorders, as well as to help mothers during difficult childbirth.
As we travel across the Atlantic Ocean and forge ahead in time, Early America is not to be left out. Garlic was brought to the new world by the explorers and sailors from France and Portugal.
Rivlin states that in the 19th century, garlic formed an important part of the Shaker medical armamentarium as a stimulant, expectorant and tonic.
Garlic’s perceived therapeutic properties were widely accepted by large groups of the population.
As you can see, garlic has had quite an impact far beyond the boundaries of the kitchen. I am not qualified to vouch for its medicinal qualities but I can sure attest to its great flavor.
Entertaining is about details and every course deserves the utmost attention. Bread service is no exception.
When one is hosting a special occasion, consider serving the bread with butter, olive oil and roasted garlic.
Options always please your guests and roasted garlic is not only delicious but decadent.
The garlic is soft and not nearly as aggressive as it is in its raw state. Just squeeze the garlic cloves and they will pop out. Spread this luscious topping on warm, crusty bread and you have a home run. Enjoy!
4 whole heads of garlic
extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon each dried thyme, crushed rosemary, Herbs de Province and kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Slice off the top of each head, so the individual cloves are exposed.
3. Slowly pour olive oil onto the cloves, allowing them to soak up the oil.
4. Season heads of garlic with thyme, rosemary, Herbs de Province and salt.
5. Place garlic on a small sheet pan lined with aluminum foil.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and again, slowly pour olive oil onto the garlic.
7. Bake for an additional 25 minutes.
8. Serve garlic with warm crusty bread.
Secret Ingredient – Individuality. “Individuality is either the mark of genius or the reverse. Mediocrity finds safety in standardization.”
– Frederick E. Crane