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Garlic in Italian Cooking – Yes or No?

garlicA gal I know who happens to have unhappy reactions in her stomach every time she eats garlic was wary about a trip she had coming up in Italy. She asked, “Will I be able to find anything that isn’t covered in garlic?” A mutual friend suggested she try everyone’s favorite bean defense (which she glowingly reported worked like a charm), but when she returned from Italy she said that she’d been surprised at how little garlic she actually found in the food. Little did she know, she was in Italy in the midst of the Garlic Wars.

Many Italian chefs still adore and use garlic, but some Italian chefs these days are eschewing it. But they’re not stopping with just eliminating it from their own kitchens:

Critics have started a ferocious campaign for garlic-free dining, and the debate has moved out of culinary circles. Corriere della Sera, Italy’s top daily, devoted a page to the matter this week, listing celebrities in each camp under the headline: “The Crusade of Garlic Enemies.”

Emotions are running high on both sides of the debate, with the garlic-haters claiming it to be “a sort of persecution” and the garlic-lovers saying that it’s “nonsense dictated by people who want to keep their breath under control.” Something tells me there are enough people on both sides – including diners – to keep everyone in business, those who use garlic and those who refuse. But of course this wouldn’t be any fun without the fight, right?

Wandering Italy has an interesting take on the subject as well, including a note at the end of the post about about what trying to achieve “delicate” flavors in cooking has done for things like bread and beer in the USA. Personally, I think that with garlic – as with most things – too much of a good thing really is too much. I like to be able to taste the food underneath the garlic, and not just the herb that’s supposed to be a grace note on top. But eliminating garlic entirely from one’s cooking? That’s just this side of crazy.