The Saga Of The Disguised Rose
By making all this introduction into the world of smell or smelly world as some would say I figured it out that it all sounded as if I said “Roger, Roger…here I am the smell of it all…I am here to haunt you”. How about taste? Do the taste papillae play their own role in the discovery process? They certainly do, if it was for us to consider the numerous words that come to describe the sensations we have when tasting something. We may feel like it is all too hearty, hot, gingery, mellow, oily, overripe, peppery, raw, spicy, vinegary, fruity, tangy, buttery, cheesy, crisp or whatever. And if you feel like you’ve had just about enough about smells and tastes then what would you say about trying some garlic?
Here it is: an invitation to a garlic party! How does this sound to you? I just cannot hold my imagination from rambling around and sketching the way such a party would look like. It would certainly include some recipes making use of garlic, some garlands of garlic being worn around the neck by the guests joining it just to make sure that everyone around there has a good time and that no vampire would be attaining the party, some garlands being hanged outside the door just to make it double sure that the “blood suckers” as some would offensively call vampires stay away and perhaps some of the garlic being used as an aphrodisiac just to make sure that everyone there has a “good time”. These are practically all the things that came to my mind when trying to envisage such a party, yet I guess I must have omitted some on the way…Some oxygen masks perhaps…some would say…We shall see to this!
Meanwhile I intend to make this piece of writing some sort of a journey into the fragrant, yet old world of garlic. What comes to your mind when you think of garlic? Is it a delicious recipe that rocks the world of your guests whenever they come in to visit you or the after eating bad breath and the crazy vampire weapon meant to keep them at a respectable distance from you? No matter the case it could be said that garlic has its name associated with a well grounded by now legacy. It could equally be said that garlic has a long and outstanding history. It is precisely this saga of garlic that comes to tell us that garlic dates back to 4000 BC and has its roots in Central Asia. And just in case you have ever wondered where from does the world garlic come then I am just here to make all this mystery surrounding the name disappear. So, here it is: voices come to say that the word garlic comes from Old English “garleac”, roughly translating into “spear leek”. Would you have ever said that garlic is part of the lily family? Guess not, yet this is what science comes to say. Therefore, it could be said that garlic is some sort of a rose under disguise, don’t you think the same?
By reading the above stated question you may feel like I just made a bad joke, yet believe me going deep into the matter of garlic, you are going to discover that I am actually telling the truth and nothing more than the truth. In case you did know by now, garlic could be considered as being a member of the rose family and therefore whenever these two come across each other, in a surprise encounter if I am allowed to say so, they may equally end up calling each other “cousins”. As I have said it before, garlic is to be included in the lily family, and by this allegiance it starts calling onions and chives “relatives” as well.
As I guess you’ve had just enough babbling about relatives I am going to continue by telling you that surprisingly or not garlic has come to be considered both a vegetable and an herb. Now, as I guess there must be some of you who tend to make wry faces when hearing anyone mentioning garlic, as they most surely happen to associate the very word with the rather pungent smell, then the rather captivating saga that wraps it all will beyond shadow of doubt manage to make them see and perhaps even smell and taste things from a whole different perspective.
What about transposing garlic into art? Have you ever given a thought to this while bearing its smell or tasting its by now easily recognizable aroma? In case you have never given a thought to this and it actually never crossed your mind to start sketching the portray of a garlic clove then you would be most surely surprised to find out that archeologists came across paintings of garlic and even clay sculptures of garlic bulbs, sculptures and paintings that dated back to the year 3200 B.C. Are you curious to know where all these art objects were found? Curious or not I am going to tell you: they were discovered in some Egyptian tombs in El Mahasna.
Apparently, it did not matter if it was talk about a peasant or a royal figure in matters of garlic consumption. I say this having in mind the information according to which Tutankhamen, Egypt’s youngest pharaoh, came to be accompanied in his death by some all prevailing garlic. Some would say that perhaps the very smell of garlic was meant to keep him there all grounded for eternity. Or perhaps there can be talk about some secret which remained unknown to us up to this very day. Who knows?
And just by looking back to the Egyptian papyrus which came to be discovered and which is believed to date back to the year 1500 B.C., there seems to be a secret, a secret unveiled to us by this very papyrus. It is all written there…and it recommends garlic as a treatment for over 22 rather customary illnesses, illnesses which include heart diseases, tumors and even lack of strength or better said a sort of a weakness of the body or lack of energy. Do you happen to like the Egyptian pyramids? There is no possible way you could not like them…Yet, when seeing them there, one would not say that garlic brought its own contribution to their majestic looks but it did. Amazingly enough, rumors say that the Egyptians fed garlic to the slaves being involved in the building of the pyramids, just to make sure that they had the necessary strength to finish it all.
And this seems not be the only case in which garlic came to be considered some sort of a magic food, ambrosia of the gods if I may say so, as evidences come to prove that even some Greek military leaders used to include garlic in the menu of their troops, especially before battles. Why did they do this? I could make a joke about it and say that they might have hoped that the bad breath kept the enemies at distance, yet it wasn’t about this. Nor did garlic made some witchcraft known by itself only, but instead it was believed that once being included in the diet garlic would make troops more courageous and ready for victory. You would be perhaps surprised to hear that garlic extended its magic wing on to the Olympic athletes as well. These too tasted a good bite of garlic while preparing for the games, being animated by the belief that by doing this they would somehow manage to stimulate performance.
This “pungent bulbous herb” as it has often been described as, has long been a traded commodity when it came to the Mediterranean region and made the most of it as a flavoring for food on continents like Africa, Asia and Europe. It could be said that garlic came to be worshipped by Egyptians and at a certain point began to be used as currency too. Just imagine how would all this look today? How would it be if we all started burying people with garlic on their side or if we all used garlic to pay for the necessary goods? This would certainly manage to make many of us wealthier…or not; after all it all comes down to a matter of personal taste, don’t you think so? No matter the situation, the fact that garlic came to be used as currency as well, certainly proves that there was a moment in its rather long and nevertheless captivating history when garlic was highly regarded.
Did you envisage garlic matters as being simple and garlic being nothing else but another seasoning ingredient? Well, if you did then evidences come to prove that there is much more to it than meets the eye. Humans were in fact the ones who wrote all the history of garlic. Did you know for example that there are just about 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide? Did you know that there can be talk about American garlic, Italian one and even Mexican garlic? What is it that distinguishes these varieties of garlic? I can tell you what I managed to read only because, to be honest to you, I haven’t tried them all to be able to tell you how they taste like from a personal experience to say so. I heard that the American garlic has a strong flavor, whereas the Italian and Mexican varieties share a rather mild flavor.
Did you think that garlic was like forever a favorite spicing ingredient? History comes to contradict your thoughts if this is just what you previously believed. When mentioning the United States, I found it written somewhere that garlic was rather looked down upon from a social perspective until the first quarter of the twentieth century. It must have been because up to that point garlic came to be considered as being the flavoring ingredient of the working-class or the ingredient being mainly included in ethnic dishes. Did you know for example that there was a moment when garlic was referred to in slang of course as Bronx Vanilla or Italian perfume?
Surprisingly or not, these names were used when referring to garlic. Now, that you discovered all these things, you may equally well wonder when did America finally decided to let itself conquered by the taste of garlic. Rumors say their “love relationship” began around 1940.
What’s in the smell of garlic that makes it liked and disliked at the same time? I guess you know it by now that garlic is known near and far, inside and out as the “stinking rose”. I do not think there is a single person who does not know how garlic smells when being pressed or cut. After all, I just wonder how one could forget that rather familiar inebriating, pungent garlic smell that is to be envisaged as some sort of a key element in the kitchens around the world. Science comes to account for all this smell by saying that when the cells of the garlic are torn by either cutting the garlic clove or pressing it, these cells release an enzyme called allinaise. Apparently it all goes down to a chemical reaction which changes alliin into allicin, the last one being a sulfur-containing molecule.
In fact what is said to further on result in the already known and famous by now garlic breath are these very sulphur molecules which come to be devoured by our lungs and bloodstream. So, once you read this, you could say that you’ve had it all, meaning the flavor of garlic, the garlic breath and the scientific explanation of it too.
You all know by now that ancient Egyptians were very into garlic. We have talked about their growing passion for garlic, about the fact that they used garlic as currency, but even so I somehow neglected to tell you that they even “swore oaths on it”.
I guess you know by now that it is said that garlic was believed to keep away any evil creatures and this is precisely why things went further on and at a certain point garlic came to be hung over the cribs of infants too. Poor child, some may rightfully say! How about adorning your house and even yourself with some garlic? Now, you probably smile but I doubt it that this was the case of the people who once worn garlic around their neck or adorned their houses just wishing to ward off the Plague. If you happen to hate garlic in all its varieties and flavors, either strong or mild, then you must surely host a baby witch, a werewolf or a vampire in your body. This could explain it all, mainly why you are not able to stand garlic. Can you say it better than how the voice of the crowd said it?
However, as evidences come to prove it, garlic was not widely approved. No matter how funny this may sound to you now, it is said that King Alfonso of Castille thought it over and decided to even officially forbid knights who ate garlic to enter his court for a month. As someone said and I have to agree to this “I guess the garlic stench was just too much…”
This was not the only situation in which garlic was considered to be a rather taboo food. It also happened in ancient Greece when the priestesses simply did not allow anyone who included garlic in their diet to enter their temples. I think a bowl of parsley would have solved it all. The ancient Greeks were in fact the ones providing this solution as it appears that whenever they celebrated something they turned it all into a feast of garlic and as such in order to mask the garlic breath they afterwards needed a bowl of parsley. So, we could say now that one could get reach in Ancient Greece by cultivating and afterwards selling parsley and garlic. Hurray, I managed to come up with a great business idea but what a pity it comes too late and centuries have come over us, bringing new and new habits!
If in ancient times garlic was invested with all these rather weird or at least let’s say unusual beliefs for us nowadays, it could be said that “modern day experience” cannot in fact support the garlic’s miraculous powers over the much invoked evil spirits, but even so it can nevertheless prove that garlic can be deemed as being a “killer of passion” when it comes to evoking a goodnight kiss. I have to say that I was really surprised to hear that garlic is deemed nowadays as being an excellent aphrodisiac. When I first heard this I could not hold myself from thinking about the bad garlic breath and a kiss. I have to admit that I found myself unable to see how these two “kiss” each other or if not “kiss” then at least how they make peace with each other.
For all the rest, garlic is considered to be “an ageless ingredient with no boundaries”. And if it was for us to make use of a riddle I could expand it all and share the riddle with you too. Let’s see if you can guess: “Before any changes I’m a garlic or spice. My first is altered and I’m a hand warming device. My second is changed and I’m trees in full bloom. The next letter change makes a deathly old tomb. Change the fourth to make a fruit of the wine. Change the last for a chart plotted with lines. What was I? What did I become? What did I turn out to be?” Interested in finding the answer to this rather complex riddle? Well, first there is the “clove”, then the “glove”, the “grove”, the “grave”, the “grape” and last but not least important the “graph”.
Do you think that Cervantes joked when writing the following words in Don Quixote: “Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal you that you are a peasant.”? Or do you think that when Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote “What do you think? Young women of rank eat –you will never guess what –garlick!” he only meant to make people smile? Well, if this is the first thing that crossed your mind then you would be most surely surprised to hear that there was a time when garlic was not considered “to be suitable food for the upper classes”. All this happened only because these ranked people detested the garlic’s strong odor. Did you know that there was a time when monks believed that garlic had been endowed with the gift of arousing unknown passions in people and this is precisely why they forbade its use?
Therefore it cannot be said that garlic has a boring history. Along the time, garlic has been used for a whole lot of purposes, some of them strange, others involving culinary preoccupations or medicinal ones. Interesting enough, garlic has been used “to infuse vodka and also as an ingredient to make cocktails”. Therefore I may surprise you with a question now: Would you be interested in sipping graciously such a cocktail? Or perhaps you would rather prefer preparing such a cocktail yourself…No matter the case, if we were to listen to what the specialists say, regarding the aphrodisiac properties of garlic, I’d say that when planning to taste such a cocktail you’d better invite your lover to sit next to you. After all, I suppose you wouldn’t like wasting such a moment, would you?
Among those weird uses that I initially mentioned, one could certainly include the use of garlic in a wedding ceremony. Though this may seem rather interesting for those who wish to be labeled as individualistic or better said unique in their tastes, one would have to admit that the use of garlic in a wedding ceremony is nevertheless “strange”. Stories tell that once upon a time,in ancient Greek and Roman marriages the bouquet of flowers came to be replaced by bouquets of garlic and other herbs as well. Did this succeed in making the respective marriage a fragrant wedding or what? It certainly did, but according to the voice of majority it certainly managed to ward off evil spirits, including here the famous vampires. What if the very groom happened to be a vampire? Such a story surely needs a good scenarist to make a movie out of it, don’t you agree with me?
What other strange yet special uses were assigned to garlic? It depends on the time we are talking about. If one made reference to medieval times, then garlic would have to be considered sort of a remedy for overeating and drunkenness. But I guess most of you did not know that garlic makes just an excellent ingredient for the prevention of sunburn. You’ve never heard of this? Well, in the Mediterranean regions, people working under the burning sun simply fight this one by rubbing slices of garlic on their noses and lips. Is anyone there to kiss them and see what they taste or smell like? Guess not, but after all they spend their time under the burning sun being animated by the wish to work, are they?
Most of us already know probably that garlic can equally be administered internally, making people get rid of bothering colds, coughs or whooping cough. It is said that it can work miracles on our body and therefore garlic comes to be considered all the more interesting.
There are various voices claiming that garlic can work miracles on acne, that it can work as glue too, as cosmetics, as mosquito repellent and as I’ve said it before as an aphrodisiac. Are you in any way surprised to hear such things? Apparently garlic can serve a whole myriad of purposes and these ones should come as no surprise anymore. Garlic has been invested with some blood cleansing and antibiotic properties and this is why it is believed that it can equally well be used in treating acne.
When it comes to using it as glue you may try this for yourself and see if what the others claim to be true applies in your case too. It is said that by crushing some cloves of garlic you can make instant glue. It appears that Chinese people already experimented the use of adhesives made of garlic when it came to repairing glass, so why not trying yourself too?
How about some cosmetics including garlic as a main ingredient? Would you be surprised to hear that you could prepare a face cleanser in your own home by “mixing garlic and lemon extracts with water, cider vinegar and lavender flowers?” How about a hair lotion that would make your hair shine and look healthier than ever? The ingredients of such a lotion may take one by surprise, yet if the effect is the expected one then why not using it, don’t you think so? The ingredients of this lotion are as follows: garlic juice, water, vodka and rosemary. I dare say that the vodka is worth all the money…in making your hair look astonishing…Of course, when saying this I am ironic but you can never be sure of anything, can you? I have to admit that I am not a connoisseur in these matters so the results may prove to be astonishing and I may be speaking nonsense here…
As for the aphrodisiac part, I need each and everyone of you to be honest and tell me whether they would accept their husbands or boyfriends/girlfriends to join them into bed and even more make love with them while being under the “influence” of what I dare to call the “garlic aphrodisiac”. Am I too inquisitive or is the question too personal? If it is, my apologies dear ladies and kind gentlemen…There was one good reason why I asked this, namely because I managed to read somewhere that The Talmud, the already very well known “collection of Jewish laws, ethics and customs” practically advises husbands to eat garlic before Sabbath and ….surprise or not…before making love to their wives. How romantic that must be! I think the smell speaks volumes to the wife and arouses her in the blink of an eye, don’t you think so too? No need of preludes…the garlic is a prelude in itself…or perhaps I should mention here the smell of it…Don’t know yet…
What is clear to me is that husbands in this case are not to be included in the category of actors evoked by Shakespeare in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Shakespeare then wrote that “Most dear actors eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.” I think we can thus all conclude that husbands do not need the above mentioned “sweet breath” in the love making process…Or it could all determine us to say like Thomas Nash once rather humorously put it all when talking about garlic: “Garlic maketh a man wynke, drynke, and stynke.”11