Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stinking Garlic.

November 20 ...

Sir John Harington, the “saucy godson” of Queen Elizabeth I, and the man who first got the idea of the flush toilet died on this day in 1612. The idea never came to anything in Harington’s lifetime – the idea was well ahead of its time, and he was also perhaps too busy being what we would call in Australia “a larrikin”, getting into various scrapes that did not impress his godmother. It was over two hundred years before Thomas Crapper in nineteenth century England made the concept real (Victorian England was exactly the right time and place for such an invention), for which we will all be forever grateful.

Harington is not featuring in today’s story on account of his method of disposing human excrement - although one could argue its relevance to a food blog – but because of the quotation attributed to him on the topic of garlic.

"And scorn not garlic like some that think, it only maketh men wink and drink and stink"

Harington was an author and poet, and in between bouts of being “a bit of a lad”, he translated the famous Medical Poem of Salerno. The Medical School of Salerno in Italy was founded in the ninth century, and associated with it (although possibly not written there), is a long poem called the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitatem. The poem discusses general health measures such as diet and exercise, bowel habits, wine-drinking and so on, and it became enormously popular and was expanded numerous times and translated into many languages.

Harington’s work was the first English translation, and the garlic quotation comes from the verse which relates to protection from poisoning. It clearly explains the belief behind the inclusion of garlic in the famous plague-protecting ‘Vinegar of the Four Thieves.’

Six things, that here in order shall ensue,
Against all poisons have a secret power,
Pear, Garlic, Radish-roots, Nuts, Rape, and Rue,
But Garlic chief; for they that it devour,
May drink, and care not who their drink do brew:
May walk in airs infected every hour.
Sith Garlic then hath powers to save from death,
Bear with it though it make unsavory breath:
And scorn not Garlic, like to some that think
It only makes men wink, and drink, and stink.

For our recipe today we jump ahead again to the Victorian era. Mrs Beeton was not a fan of garlic. She says “The smell of this plant is generally considered offensive. … It was in greater repute with our ancestors than it is with ourselves, although it is still used as a seasoning herb. On the continent, especially in Italy, it is much used, and the French consider it an essential in many made dishes.”

Garlic does appear in a few of “her” recipes (she collected, she did not author them), and there is a prodigious amount in her recipe for Mango ‘Chetney’. I picked out this recipe as the mango season has started in earnest here in Queensland, and I thought that local readers might particularly enjoy it. Strangely however, the recipe contains no mango. There is no formal acknowledgement of the use of apples as the subsitute – an obvious and convenient substitute given that mangoes would have been difficult to source in England. The recipe was supplied to her by an “English lady, who had long been a resident in India, and who, since her return to her native country, has become quite celebrated amongst her friends for the excellence of this Eastern relish” – presumably this Lady used mangoes while she was in India? Why is this recipe not called Apple Chetney?

Bengal Recipe For Making Mango Chetney.
1 ½ lbs. of moist sugar, ¾ lb. of salt, ¼ lb. of garlic, ¼ lb. of onions, ¾ lb. of powdered ginger, ¼ lb. of dried chilies, ¾ lb. of mustard-seed, ¾ lb. of stoned raisins, 2 bottles of best vinegar, 30 large unripe sour apples.
The sugar must be made into syrup; the garlic, onions, and ginger be finely pounded in a mortar; the mustard-seed be washed in cold vinegar, and dried in the sun; the apples be peeled, cored, and sliced, and boiled in a bottle and a half of the vinegar. When all this is done, and the apples are quite cold, put them into a large pan, and gradually mix the whole of the rest of the ingredients, including the remaining half-bottle of vinegar. It must be well stirred until the whole is thoroughly blended, and then put into bottles for use. Tie a piece of wet bladder over the mouths of the bottles, after they are well corked.
This chetney is very superior to any which can be bought, and one trial will prove it to be delicious.
[Use green mangoes, my local friends, it will be delicious]

Tomorrow’s Story …

School Food.

Quotation for the Day ..

Chutney is marvelous. I'm mad about it. To me, it's very imperial. Dianna Vreeland.

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