Garlic – The Foundation of the [Food] Pyramids
Throughout history people have pondered the mystery and grandness of the Egyptian pyramids, analyzing both the mathematical and architectural principles behind their construction. But who would have guessed that their existence can also be attributed to a simple and surprising source – garlic. We know garlic to be a good addition to our food pyramid, but now it’s time to recognize the important role it played in ancient Egyptian culture. Pop a breath mint and strap in for this tantalizing tale.
The history of garlic is largely the history of the world, with many societies having prescribed garlic as a cure for a number of health complications. In fact, its presence was noted in the earliest civilizations of Asia and brought to the Mediterranean, specifically Egypt, around 3200 B.C. To show the regard Egyptians had for garlic, it is rumored that they went so far as to invocate the flavorful plant as a deity during their taking of oaths. It certainly appears that the ancient Egyptians lived and died by this sharp-tasting condiment. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the burial chambers. Well-preserved garlic cloves were said to have been found in the tomb of King Tut, who served as an Egyptian pharaoh from approximately 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C. Garlic was even a worthy source of sustenance for the Egyptian slaves who were tasked with the responsibility of building the pyramids. If nothing else, it was a fruitful way to spice up their often-meager diet of flatbread, beer, and onions. As legend has it, when the slaves attempted to go on strike mid-pyramid, their masters gave them more garlic as an incentive to continue building. A move that ultimately ended up costing the government millions.
The motive for civilizations to keep their soldiers, workers, and royals on a steady diet of garlic can be attributed to their steadfast belief that it would increase strength and fortitude. With today’s food science, we now have a much better understanding of just how good garlic is for us nutritionally. During World War I, this healing quality of garlic was used extensively by British soldiers. To this day, home remedies include curing earaches, sore throats, and the treatment and prevention of colds and flu. Allicin is the Sulphur compound which conveys most of the health benefits, thus making garlic one of today’s superfoods. Containing 17 amino acids, which are essential to nearly every bodily function and make up roughly 75% of the human body, garlic is packed with B vitamins, various minerals, amino acids, flavonoids, poly-sulfides and other healthy immune boosting ingredients. The antioxidants in garlic may also help improve bone health and prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the levels of serotonin, ultimately enhancing memory function. In fact, prior to the development of bacterial fighting antibiotics, garlic was used both internally and topically for that purpose. With the advent of superbugs, it’s only fitting to employ this superfood as a natural way of combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Garlic can even be applied to wounds to help them heal faster.
Ready to conquer this superfood for yourself? Look no further than the topic of our last blog – Egyptian hummus! Hummus, the name for thick Egyptian spread, is a basic blend of chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and various spices. The paste provides a healthy and tasty addition to pita bread, pita chips, veggies, and just about any food needing a good kick. While we can’t divulge the secret ingredients that go into our very own recipe for Hala’s Garlicky Hummus, here’s a simple recipe you can try at home:
· 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, cooking liquid reserved if possible
· ½ cup tahini, with some of its oil
· ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
· 2 cloves peeled garlic
· Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, plus a sprinkling for garnish
· Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1. Put the chickpeas, tahini, cumin or paprika, oil, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor, sprinkle with salt and pepper and begin to process; add chickpea-cooking liquid or water as needed to produce a smooth purée.
2. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed. Serve, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of cumin or paprika and some parsley.
Feeling in need of some extra energy during the day? Channel your inner vampire slayer Egyptian and pick up a clove or two of garlic for yourself. Remember: it’s never too late to #EatLikeAnEgyptian.