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Offbeat 11 December 2014

I remember the garlic from about 30 years ago. A woman who lived round the corner used to chew whole cloves for good health, though possibly also as defence against crooks, maybe even as prophylaxis.
A chat with her was a nightmare. My eyes used to water so much that I could hardly see her, though I am certain that I remember an evil look in her eye. I grew to like garlic, though not from her but more from the extra cheesy taste it gives to Italian food. Unfortunately the garlic I get now, the ones in the tubs in the shop, is so mild, I can’t even make my cat back up, hiss in repulsion and do her funny running out the house trick.

All I can imagine is that someone managed to cultivate a milder sort of garlic for people who don’t like the flavour of real garlic.
I’m not happy about that concept at all. If people don’t like garlic the way God made it, they should not demand a milder garlic. And research to establish that should never have been conducted in the first place. In fairness, it might have been a commercial decision, sort of like selling Hello Kitty posters to people who find Mona Lisa’s smile a bit confusing. Though in another kind of fairness, why should I only have access to Hello Kitty posters when I prefer Mona Lisa? It’s the same with chillies. Chillies should burn, and anyone who can’t take it should go with paprika. And onions should make you weep like the death of the Little Match Girl. What happened to onions? I blame it on scientists and men in lab coats, the sort of people who do stuff to prove that it can be done, without thinking too hard about the consequences, or worse, skimping on the research and hoping that there are no consequences in their lifetimes, unlike Oppenheimer and his buddies who split the atom in a disturbingly practical way. Above all else, I believe that people in lab coats should absolutely not be involved in the development of food, and especially not for profit. In fact, if they are, they and their families should be legally bound to eat their own food in the same amounts they expect others to eat it. That ought to teach them caution, and the wisdom of copious research and painstaking research.
Not only will they eat garlic without taste, chillies without heat and onions with a complete lack of emotion, but they would also have to ingest things like aspartame, which is now being linked to bloating, diabetes and brain damage. While we are here, I cannot but help observe that a certain large beverage manufacturer is experimenting with a natural sugar-free sweetener.
 I wonder, why? The same company that produces aspartame has now come up with an interesting genetic variant of mealies: it kills insects by making their stomachs explode. Apparently it’s safe for human consumption. If it’s OK with you though, I think I will pass on that course, and maybe have water for breakfast.
I know that fast food needs to be fast, and probably manufactured, but I would prefer that whatever food I put in my mouth be completely above suspicion. There are times when I don’t need the wonders found at the bottom of a test tube, and I think this is one of them.
Don’t, however let me be too insistent. If you want scientifically manufactured food, go for it. It’s your body and your mouth. You decide what you put in it.
I have a feeling for the picture of the local farmer in the field, getting his hands dirty, swearing at the tractor.  False as the image is, it breeds some kind of trust, if only knowing that there is someone I can blame when things go wrong. I also have a feeling for the ideas of cross cultivation and the patient art of adapting plants naturally to the local environment.   I also have a warm feeling for the insect. In the past, important people used to have food tasters to ensure that their food was not poisoned. If a vegetable comes to me with a bit that has been nibbled here or there, I know that it is good. If the insect, my personal food taster, can survive it, so can I.

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