Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blame It On The Garlic

“We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic . . .”   (Numbers 11:6)

Ah yes, the garlic. Love it or hate it, this ubiquitous little herb (or vegetable, depending on your take) has been feeding and healing from pre-biblical times to now. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the slaves who built the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza were given loads of garlic, onions, and radishes to fuel their work. Garlic was so valued it was even used as currency on occasion. A healthy male slave in ancient Egypt could be purchased for fifteen pounds of garlic.

The Greeks and Romans also recognized the value of garlic, not just as a source of fuel for their laborers and soldiers, but for its medicinal qualities. In his 37-book encyclopedia of natural sciences, Historia Naturalis, Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) listed 23 different ailments that garlic could be used to treat, including infection, a condition which modern research has shown garlic to be effective against.

After the fall of Rome, Christian monks became the chief keepers of herbal and medical knowledge, and consequently grew garlic in their monastery gardens along with other plants considered important and useful.

So why the mini-history lesson on garlic? Well, it’s partly my explanation for being absent from blogging for so long. (The other part is due to simple lack of discipline.) For the past couple of months I’ve been writing a little book about garlic which is now . . . drumroll, please . . . FINISHED!

Garlic is pretty cool. In addition to keeping away vampires, it’ll flavor your dishes, keep you healthy, ward away pests, help you catch fish . . . read the book and you’ll find out all kinds of neat things.

Of course, we Catholics already know how great garlic is. Just check out this statue of St. Lorenzo (Lawrence), the patron saint of cooks. Look at what he’s holding: a gridiron and cloves of garlic! (Legend has it that St. Lawrence suffered martyrdom in the 3rd century by being roasted over a gridiron.)

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