Wednesday, February 11, 2015


"A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat." 
~ unknown, old Yiddish proverb

Garlic (unlike potatoes ~ see specific 'blog-entry from February 8th, 2012 ~ and Coffee ~ see last specific 'blog-entries from February 26th, 2014 and February 28th, 2014) is not necessarily a mandatory breakfastary staple (unless you are making Garlic Pancakes or Garlic-stuffed French Toast, of course), but I do really like the addition of garlic in most of my savoury breakfast dishes.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is in the same Genus as onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, and chives. However, I am pretty sure that it is not related in any way to Marijuana (Cannabis sativa). (See, "sativum/sativus/sativa" are just forms of Latin botanical adjectives meaning "cultivated". Anyone that has ever tried smoking garlic leaves will know this for a fact.)

Garlic ~ etymology and numerous stupid, useless cunning linguist pointers:

Etymology: Old English "gārlēac" (Mercian), "garlec" (W. Saxon), from "gār" ("spear", in reference to the clove) + "lēac" ("leek").

Arabic = ثوم (I don't have the correct transliteration, but it sounds something like "thoom" which is good enough for Gub'mint work)
Czech = česnek (pronounced "CHESS-nek")
Chinese = 大蒜 (transliterated as "dàsuàn" and pronounced something like "DA-swen")
Dutch = knoflook (pronounced "Ka-NO-flouk")
French = ail (pronounced "aye", with a silent "l")
German = Knoblauch (pronounced "Ka-NO-bloukh", with the "l" pronounced, Chuck)
Greek = σκόρδο (transliterated as "skortho" and pronounced "SKOR-tho")
Hungarian = fokhagyma (pronounced "FOK-hagima", or close enough; what do you expect, I was only in Budapest once and then only for four days)
Irish (Gaeilge) = gairleog (simply pronounced "garlic"; sometimes these cunning linguist pointers ain't Brain Science)
Italian = aglio (pronounced "AL-yio")
Korean = 마늘 (transliterated as "maneul" and pronounced something like "MAN-ay")
Polish = czosnek (pronounced "CHOSE-nek")
Portuguese = alho (pronounced "AL-yo")
Russian = чеснок (transliterated as "chesnok" and pronounced as "CHESS-nok")
Spanish = ajo (pronounced "a-HO")

Garlic is native to Central Asia, and it has been used by humans for over 7,000 years, both for culinary uses and medicinal purposes.

While garlic is used (more than) generously throughout Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, it is mentioned only once in the Bible (they must be a buncha anti-Semites to mention it just the one time, though):

Numbers 11:5 [1] ~ We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely: the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.

Which is why you probably never hear Israel referred to as "the land of milk and garlic".

Interestingly enough (well, it's "interesting" if you are either a food-geek or Cliff Clavin, I suppose), there are certain Buddhist sects (and I am not sure if that is even the correct designation for a branch of Buddhism), in addition to being strictly vegetarian, that do not allow/recommend the use of garlic (or onions). (And you all thought that the Jews and Muslims had some strange dietary laws.) It seems there are differing ratiocinations for this by separate branches of Buddhists. East Asian Buddhists do not eat any root vegetables (to include: potatoes, carrots, or onion and garlic); apparently this has something to do with "killing" any plant life. Other Buddhists avoid eating "strong-smelling plants"; something to which they say "tend to excite senses" (whatever the heck that is supposed to mean). All I can think about is that aren't ginger roots also grown underground (and aren't they also pretty strong smelling and "sensually exciting", too)? And what about lotus roots? Apparently, ol' Sid Guatama never smelled a ripe jackfruit or durian either. (Whew! "Strong-smelling" would be putting it overly nicely there.) And, of course, these arbitrary dietary restrictions came into play centuries before the New World was invaded by the Europeans and chillies were "discovered" and then imported for use in almost every major cuisine in the World (to include Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian). I suppose that capsaicin isn't considered "sensationally arousing" in local Buddhist temples. Plus, you just try eating a mango or a banana without "killing" it first; those suckers won't go down without a fight (be extra careful when wrestling with bananas, though, they do tend to bruise very easily).

Gilroy (the one in California) self-proclaims itself as: "the Garlic Capital of the World". However, in fact, the entire U.S. of America is only the 9th top garlic producer in the World; whereas, China is by far the largest producer of garlic ~ making up for about 81% of the World output of garlic (growing about 100 times as much garlic as the entire U.S. does). That doesn't keep the city of Gilroy from holding their annual garlic festival (and completely messing up traffic along Highway 101 all the way from San Jose to Salinas) for three days every summer.

And, of course, garlic is one of the main ingredients in that most supreme of the Foods of the Gods: Τζατζίκι

1. Of course, on the West Coast, this is usually known as "Numbers 8:5", except in Hawai'i and most of Arizona during Daylight Saving Time.

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