April is National Garlic Month (well, at least in the United States). But I’m adopting in my house too. I LOVE garlic and if there’s a way to add it into a recipe, I probably will. Look out for a garlic-filled recipe soon on this site!
I never though much about my love affair with garlic until a few years ago when I read that the Toronto Transit Commission had an old rule on the books about garlic. What does the supplier of buses, subways and streetcars have to do with garlic? Well apparently, the old rule was this: It is illegal to ride a street car in Toronto on a Sunday if you have been eating garlic.
My mind immediately went to my Italian family. This rule had to have been made to address the many new Italian immigrants to the city in the 40s and 50s. My mother, even as a young girl, remembers riding the streetcar in downtown Toronto and being told by other riders that she stunk. In fact, she was told all Italian smell because they ate garlic, onions and other flavourful food.
Sadly, the stereotype that “all Italians smell like garlic” is still prevalent today (don’t believe me? Google the phrase). And garlic’s role in the rich/poor divide is shocking as well. This NPR story on garlic from 2007 outlines the plan of some Italian chefs to ban the bulb and brings up the historical stigma of using garlic. It suggests that garlic was introduced, or at least became heavily used, during a time of poverty in Italy as the poor added it to flavour the meager meals they had to live on. It’s not surprising then, that many of the Italian dishes that have garlic are from southern Italy, where poverty was experienced widely, like pasta with garlic and olive oil, meat dishes where garlic flavours the oil and so on. Here’s a quote from the story:
“There are lots of prejudices that people who eat and smell of garlic are second class, backward, unsophisticated. It’s a class thing for many people.”
From the photo archives at York University, I found these wonderful gems just a few days before Christmas. Happy Holidays!