It’s time for your hump-day Italian food and language lesson.
Today’s topic is garlic!
First we’ll cover the language and then focus on the food. In Italian, garlic is called “aglio.” This is one of those tricky Italian pronunciations. Say “awl” “lee” “oh” – (not ah-glee-o). The “gli” sound is always the same, so if you see this combo in other words, just remember the shove the back of your tongue toward the back of your mouth, then semi-swallow as you say “lllleeeee” as best you can. Try it now.
Seriously, did you try it?
Did anybody HEAR you?!! Ha ha. Hope you had a little fun with that one.
Now, onto the food stuff.
In addition to being a key ingredient to many of my favorite meals, garlic is also an ancient plant known for its healing powers. Raw, roasted, sauteed or baked, garlic brings the flavor and the favor (of health, wasn’t that obvious?).
Stocking up this week, I was pleased to find local garlic at our neighborhood Standa (grocery store). Here in Sicily, the Standa still observes riposo (starting roughly at 1pm/2pm and ending around 4/5pm), it is closed on Sundays, it has a regular full-time staff in the deli, and the produce attendant fetches, weighs and prices all of the produce for you.
When I indicated I want a bunch of garlic, the produce attendant pointed back and forth between the meshed-wrapped, mega-white, factory-farmed, every-bulb-the-same-size-and-shape garlic and the knobby, tinged with dirt, dried-stems-tied-together garlic. I immediately chose the latter.
As an aside, while I use as much Italian as I can, we both tend to fall back on pointing at critical junctures in the selection process. It is what it is; the simplest forms of communication are usually the most effective.
The produce attendant hesitated after I had selected the earthy garlic; he first pointed out the higher price to me. The mega-white garlic was about 1.90 Euro/kg and the earthy garlic was 4.35 Euro/kg. I nodded my understanding and emphatically pointed at the earthy garlic. Even with my assent he went on to tell me about the superior flavor of the earthy garlic, I nodded enthusiastically through his explanation. I knew I was getting my Euro’s worth by buying the more authentic stuff.
At home this week, we have been rewarded with a rich pungent garlic aroma and flavor when we’ve used the new garlic. Living in Sicily, I could also stop at a roadside stand and be similarly rewarded. This bunch should last us a few months.
If you are garlic-hesitant or have never dabbled in garlic, I highly recommend you start in small doses and work your way up. Not only will your tolerance raise to enjoy garlic more and more this way, it will also give your digestive system appropriate time to adjust to the way garlic interacts with your body.